Charles Albert Fechter: A Biographical Sketch


GENIUS is no more a matter of accident than the rising of the sun ; for though genius dazzle with the unexpected brilliancy of a comet, like the comet it has its regular orbit, and when the science of art has been discovered, as it will be ere the dawn of the millennium, the world will know the cause as well as the effect of human greatness.

Blood tells under all circumstances, and never has it told a more straightforward story than in the character of Charles Albert Fechter, in whose ancestors we see the beginnings of himself. It is not a little significant that his mother bore the kingly name of Regis, with which name, too, royalty took personal interest, it being an old Piedmontese custom that the king should stand sponsor to the twelfth child of any of his subjects. Now it happened that Fechter’s maternal grandfather was the twenty-first of twenty-six children, consequently the king became godfather to his twelfth and twenty-fourth great-grand-uncles ! Italian by birth, this grandfather was equally Italian in his profession of carver, yet not so Italian but he could make his home in Flanders, where Fechter’s mother, Marie Angélique Regis, was born. Arcachon, France, was the birthplace of his father, Jean Maria Guillaume Fechter, his paternal grandfather being a native of Cologne and of German lineage. This grandfather’s tendencies were likewise in the direction of art. He found congenial employment in polishing court-suit buttons and in making sword-handles, the latter of which occupations was not scorned by Benvenuto Cellini.

The alphabet of art having been acquired by Fechter’s grandparents, it was not strange that they should bequeath greater abilities to their children. Jean Maria Fechter was not only an excellent sculptor, but a born comedian, who, however, confined his acting to private life ; while his wife, whom he married in Lisle, was more than usually gifted. Though uneducated, she possessed literary and artistic tastes, writing verses and stories of considerable feeling and deftly turning her fingers to account by the manufacture of artificial flowers. She would take the delicate, almost impalpable tissue that lines the shells of eggs, and, fashioning it into roses, would simultaneously color and scent them with rose-water. But these flowers were too fragile for mortal use, so Madame Fechter resorted to stouter material. Born of Piedmontese parents, she spoke no Italian, very little Flemish, and adopted the language of her husband’s chosen home. France.

Yet Gallic as was Fechter père in all his feelings, he never became naturalized. Receiving an offer from Storr and Mortimer, the great jewellers of England, to take the position of the well-known sculptor Tamissier, whose unfortunate habits had rendered him unfit for work, Jean Fechter moved from Paris to London, where, in Hanway Yard, Oxford Street, Charles Albert Fechter was born October 23, 1824. He was the youngest but one of thirteen children, eleven of whom died in infancy. With artistic proclivities on both sides of the house, with the hot blood of Italy, the speculative blood of Germany strongly impregnated with French verve flowing through his veins, it is not strange that Charles Fechter, “ the man without a country,” should belong to all the world, which Shakespeare tells us is the stage. Learning to read at a very early age, his passion for the drama evinced itself in devotion to Shakespeare ; the plays of Hamlet, Othello, and Macbeth being especial favorites, and in peculiar theatrical monologues. Appropriating garments belonging to his parents, the youthful Roscius was in the habit of retiring to an unoccupied room, where, after locking the door, he blackened his nose and arrayed himself in motley attire. Thus, half-way ’twixt man and woman, he spouted and strutted, to the great terror of the mice and the infinite satisfaction of himself. During these private exhibitions Fechter dedicated his energies to tragedy, but, being endowed with great vivacity, relieved himself when off duty by jumping on chairs and tables, drawing caricatures, and playing monkey for the delectation of visitors. Not content with his own interpretation of imaginary heroes, Fechter’s passion frequently overcame Fechter’s conscience, and many of his father’s valuable coins were secretly disposed of in order that, like a bad little cherub, he might sit up aloft among the gods of Drury Lane. There Fechter feasted his eyes and ears on Macready, Charles Kemble, the elder Vandenhoff and the elder Wallack, recollections of whom he retains to this day. Of the four, Charles Kemble, with his charmingly natural acting, was his favorite, and Vandenhoff his “ cold blanket.” Wallack made a great impression upon him, and Macready delighted him in “ William Tell.” But the artist of all others whom he worshipped was no other than Malibran. She often held her young lover on her knee, little know ing the amount of sentiment she had inspired in an eight - year - old boy. Poor Malibran ! that she with her great heart and great genius should have married a great brute and died neglected !

Sent to Templeton’s College at the age of eight, Fechter stood very well, showing great aptitude for Greek and Latin, great fondness for history, although he never could retain a name or a date, and despising every branch of mathematics. Largely endowed with imagination, young Fechter entertained his teachers with marvellous stories of adventure, and, magnetizing them as he has since magnetized larger audiences, in more romantic situations, enjoyed their favor to an unusual extent. Of course a lad of Fechter’s mettle could not but be attractive to the bullies of his school, who, true to their prerogative, set upon him in numbers and nicknamed him “French frog.” Stung to the quick by this taunt, Fechter resented it, but, fighting single-handed, was always worsted. “ Only come on one at a time, and I ’ll whip every one of you,” said Fechter; but no, the bullies preferred to attack him in a body, and so the “French frog ” vowed vengeance. Waylaying the leading persecutor one day, he so thoroughly whipped his adversary that the bullies cried “ quits,” and ever after treated the “ French frog ” like a true Briton.

England, with all its virtues, was not France to Fechter père, who in 1830 once more found himself in Paris ; but the Revolution came, and the unhappy sculptor was again driven across the Channel. Though but six years old. Fechter remembers seeing the great Mademoiselle George act, and being carried over the barricades on his father’s shoulders. This abortive attempt at migration served to endear Paris still more to Jean Fechter’s heart, and the failure of 1830 became a fait accompli in 1836. Poor as the father was, — the time had been when he had broken up chairs to serve for fire-wood, — he sent Charles to school at Boulogne-sur-Seine ; but at the end of two years the boy returned home to aid in supporting the family. Assisting his father in making bronzes and candelabras, studying French with Hersant his drawing-master, reading the classics, and dreaming of the theatre, which he frequented with the constancy of a passionate lover, Charles led a busy life for two years, and at sixteen became the hero of a duel. How did it happen ? Foolishly, of course. Taken to the Café Militaire by a friend much older than himself, — a captain in the army, — young Fechter listened to stories of prowess until, excited by the wine and cigars most unwisely given to him, he too longed for an opportunity to prove his courage. The subject of duelling being introduced, there was no man present but could revive some wonderful affair of so-called honor in which he had either killed or wounded his opponent. At least, young Fechter could fight a duel if some one would be good enough to insult him, and, flushed with the insidious thief that steals away even the best of brains, he found an enemy in his friend and host. Taking offence at a trifling remark, the aspiring youth slapped the face of Monsieur le Capitaine with his own epaulet and demanded the satisfaction of a gentleman. Badly as the Captain felt, he was forced by that noblesse which so frequently obliges people to make fools of themselves to accept the challenge ; as the challenged party he of course had the choice of weapons, and selected the rapier. With pistols Fechter might kill the Captain ; with rapiers the Captain could kill Fechter, but would not. So the two met, with their seconds, in that Bois de Boulogne of other days, when it was a gloomy forest sacred to duellists and highwaymen. “ Coward ! ” was Fechter’s salutation to his friend, “ you have selected the rapier, because you know you are master of it. With pistols the chances would have been more even; at least I can call you coward, and from my soul I do so.” Coward indeed ! the Captain’s only fear was lest, in giving the “ satisfaction ” for which Hotspur panted, he should not be sufficiently expert to draw the minimum of blood. These fears were realized when Fechter’s rapier fell and the blood flowed from his wrist. The wound, though severe, was not dangerous, and Fechter, having fought his duel, and learned how unjust he had been to the Captain, forgot his grievance, embraced his enemy, and was taken home alive to his terrified parents. Would that all equally absurd duels ended as happily!

From the Bois de Boulogne to the Salle Molière, from duelling to private theatricals, seems a long step, yet none too long for Fechter, who in this same year 1840 made his first appearance behind those foot-lights by which he had been dazed. The Salle Molière is a small theatre in the Passage Molière, which at that time was used by St. Aulaire, a famous teacher of acting, — Rachel’s first and best instructor,— and let once a week to amateurs for private theatricals. Theirs was a unique company, changing with each performance and singularly enough brought together. A list of the pieces to be played being put up, any one by selecting his part and paying for it — the amount charged was in proportion to the importance of the character — could strut his brief hour upon the stage. Such a republican form of government would lead to eminently doleful results in this country, where actors are made, not born; but France is not America. There, it is said, all men and women are actors by nature, and the worst go upon the stage !

This company of the Salle Molière was eminently successful, so much so that Fechter’s brother-in-law, himself an ardent admirer of the drama, paid the young sculptor’s fee, and put his name down for the jeune premier in Dumas’s Le Mari de la Veuve. The amount expended for acting was returned in tickets, so that the aspiring amateurs were always sure of an audience. Fechter’s success was so great that he soon became a necessity to the company, one of whose members, now a distinguished diplomatist, — diplomacy is but another name for acting, — insisted upon paying Fechter’s fees in order that he might be “stirred up” by contact with so magnetic and admirable an actor.

After seeing Fechter perform, St. Aulaire came up with a strange gentleman, saying, “ My boy, it you will come to my cours (class), I will teach you for nothing.” “ And if you make the stage your profession, I will give you all my parts,” added the unknown, who turned out to be no other than Scribe ! Fechter could not accept St. Aulaire’s generous offer, for the reason that his father required his assistance in the studio ; but he did not forget the great compliment paid him by the first of professors and the first of playwrights, and longed for emancipation.

Temporary release was not long in coming. At this time Duvernoir, a well-known “ singer,” now a professor in the Conservatoire of Paris, was organizing a company for Florence, Italy, and at the last moment lost his juvenile actor, Gaston, who was unexpectedly drafted into the army. Remembering the great ability displayed by Fechter at the Salle Molière, Duvernoir offered him the vacant situation. A winter in Florence, all the “ interesting lovers,” and a salary combined ? The offer proved irresistible, and in spite of fatherly expostulation the stage-struck youth set off for Italy in January, 1841.

To dream of acting and to act are sadly different, as le jeune premier soon found to his cost. Starting with a modest wardrobe, he made the mournful discovery that his requirements greatly exceeded his possessions, and straightway developed latent abilities in tailoring and boot - making. Fechter not only made his own dresses, but cut those of actors as impecunious as himself. But top-boots, — what should he do for these very expensive and very necessary articles ? The question was father to the answer. Is not genius ever equal to an emergency ? What should he do for top-boots ? Why, invent them, of course ! So out of thin oil-cloth Fechter manufactured a pair of boots of so stylish a cut and perfect a lit as to be the envy of his associates. Love-making in those top-boots must have possessed a double fascination. It could not have been bootless. Ah, and there was that crowning glory of man, a hat! Silk hats are a poor man’s natural enemy, yet a lover without a good-looking hat is about as impossible a creature as a pretty woman without a head of hair. But had not Fechter an old hat ? What could be easier than to wet it whenever necessary and make it shine like the rising sun ? Those home-made clothes, those ingenious boots, and that deceitful hat carried Fechter through his season in Italy; perhaps for the very good reason that the season was not much longer than his original top-boots. Never had Florence known such a winter. The oldest inhabitant went mad in endeavoring to conjure up the ghost of a like recollection. Almanacs were in vain. July invaded January, and the snow on the Apennines, melted by the hot breath of summer, vanished into thin air. Of what avail to perform French comedy at the “ Cocomero ” (Watermelon), when the astonished Florentines were longing with tragic thirst to eat their accustomed watermelons in the streets ? Moreover, there was a rival French troupe at another theatre. One might have survived: the two killed each other.

Nevertheless, Manager Duvernoir persevered in his enterprise for six weeks, and Fechter won praise from the Sir Hubert Stanleys of the period. Strange to say, every play advertised was by Scribe. Those were the good old days of Austrian surveillance, when grand dukes held their court, and censors supervised public morals. Dumas was their bête noire, Molière was sniffed at, but Scribe was considered harmless. So Scribe became the author of Tartuffe, wore Dumas’s colors and displayed a versatility never known before or since. There was no press to tell tales, the censors nursed their blissful ignorance, and the knowing public enjoyed the joke.

And Fechter enjoyed a joke, of quite a different hue, however. Returning one night from the theatre, he was assaulted by a thief, who, attracted by a very large stage jewel, a diamondpaste pin, which he supposed to be real, thought it easy work to rob so slight a youth. Fechter’s hot blood and practised muscle soon undeceived the robber, who, upon finding himself at a disadvantage, drew a dirk. What was to be done ? Fechter spoke not one word of Italian ; the robber not one word of French. There was a language common to both, however, — that of pantomime,—and they acted out the following dialogue.

“ O strike, if you like,”gesticulated Fechter; “ I an entirely unarmed, and you can have it all your own way ; but as you want nothing of me but my diamond pin, it is hardly worth while killing me, when you can have it on easier terms.”

“ How so ? ” asked the robber.

“ Why, I 'll make an exchange. Give me that cameo in your shirt-bosom, and I 'll give you my diamond.”

“ You ’re a queer sort of fellow,” replied the robber. “ I rather like you. It’s a bargain.”

Whereupon the exchange took place. Actor and robber shook hands and separated, the former in possession of a very beautiful cameo, the latter sole proprietor of pinchbeck ! What that robber did to himself upon discovering how completely the tables had been turned remains a mystery. Certainly Fechter never acted better than on this occasion.

At the end of the six weeks Manager Duvernoir, poor in pocket and in spirits, called his company together, declared himself bankrupt, paid a few cents on a dollar, and dismissed his friends with a tearful blessing. With characteristic generosity, Fechter divided his share among the humbler actors, who expressed their gratitude by immediately decamping with a portion of his wardrobe. Penniless, Fechter applied for aid to a banker friend, proposing to leave his clothes, books, etc. as security. Believing the jeune premier’s word to be as good as his bond, the banker lent him money and gave him a draft on a Marseilles house for one thousand francs. Thus fortified, Fechter started for France with the virtuous intention of making no use of the draft; but Fechter was young, and found as great difficulty in keeping as in making money. Marseilles was attractive, he might never travel again, and so in Marseilles he remained until his purse became an aching void, and the letter of credit his only friend. Presenting this letter he was received with unaccountable " effusion.” “ My dear fellow,” exclaimed the banker, seizing Fechter’s hands and wringing them vigorously, — “ my dear fellow, I am delighted to see you. It’s a boy, I tell you it’s a boy, and such a boy ! A marvel! You never saw anything like it in your life and you never will, take my word for it. Money ? Certainly. Any amount you please to name. I never was so happy in all my life. There ! there’s the amount, and to think it’s a boy ! ”

Entirely bewildered by this extraordinary conduct, Fechter wondered whether he were dealing with an escaped lunatic. He became convinced of it upon finding that the banker asked for no receipt. Suggesting its advisability the banker replied : “Bless my soul, certainly. Did n’t I take a receipt? Well, it’s a boy you know, and how can I think of anything else ? There now, it’s all right; here’s what belongs to you, and I’m the happiest man in the world ! ” “ Well, he is mad,” thought Fechter, as he walked away, “a raving maniac,” he added, when, upon opening the package, he discovered his receipt! Returning, Fechter apprised the banker of his mistake, and handed back the important voucher. “Great Heaven!” he exclaimed. “ You don’t say so ? Did I do that ? Well, well, it’s a boy and a beauty. We have n’t yet decided upon a name, but I ’ll write you all about it, for I’m sure you ’ll want to know.” And again the happy banker took an affectionate farewell of his young customer with the final explanation that it was his first child!

It was a welcome day to Fechter’s parents when the prodigal son returned. “ No more theatre,” said the father ; “ I want you to be a sculptor.” So Fechter became a student of the Académie des Beaux Arts, working there every evening after spending his days over bronzes in his father’s studio. Work, however, did not lessen his love of fun, which found many an outlet in pranks. One night he, in company with equally exuberant students, locked up an écrivain public (letter-writer for the ignorant poor) in his portable box of a shop, and, wheeling him off, left him several miles from his beat. The little man pounded, the little man scolded, the little man did his best to get out of the window, but little as he was the window was less, and there in solitude and rage he passed the night, no police coming to his rescue until the next morning. Unable to give any explanation of his strange situation, the little man got the credit of temporary insanity, — a verdict of great popularity with all juries equally averse to investigation.

Fechter’s thoughts never failed to return to his first love, for it was during this same year, 1841, that he entered the Conservatoire with the determination of studying for the Théâtre Francais. He aspired to grand rôles, and wished to base his style on classic models. Fired with ambition, he went before his judges. First among the inquisitors came Professor Provost, who eyed young Hotspur with disdainful pity. Those who know the broad-shouldered, full-chested Fechter of today can hardly think of him as a very thin, very long, and sentimentally delicate youth ; yet such was his appearance in 1841.

“Now, sir,” said the grim professor, “ what do you want ? ”

“ I want to be an actor.”

“An actor, indeed! Permit me to assure you that acting is out of the question. You ’ve no lungs, sir. You are consumptive, sir, and my advice to you is to take a great deal of exercise. When you walk, throw your coat open and your shoulders back, put your thumbs in the armholes of your vest, and take long respirations. If you follow my advice you may live, but you can never be an actor.”

Conscious of power, and by no means persuaded that the gods loved him sufficiently to mark him for an early death, Fechter ran the gantlet of the entire Conservatoire. Michelot was his next critic.

“ Eh bien, what will you recite ?”

“ I am up in Seide of Voltaire’s Mahomet.”

“ That will do very well. Allons.”

Sitting up after the manner of orchestral conductors, Michelot made an imaginary baton of his right arm and began to beat time as if the performance were operatic, and the youth before him a tenor about to sing his first romanza. This was too much for Fechter, whose eyes and ears are of the quickest, whose sense of humor is most acute, and whose daring is almost unparalleled in the annals of the stage. Acting upon the impulse of the moment, he carried out Michelot’s suggestion, rushed forward with operatic gesticulation, sang Voltaire’s hexameters, and turned heavy tragedy into laughable burlesque. The effect upon Michelot can be more readily imagined than described. There was nothing to be said, because this suiting the voice to Michelot’s action was too clever and appropriate a satire for words, especially as those present enjoyed the joke immensely.

In his third trial Fechter stood up before Sanson.

“ You will attempt Séide,” said Sanson. “Very well, begin at the fourth act.”

“But, M. Sanson,” remonstrated the youth, “ I’d rather begin at the beginning. I must get warmed up before I can do my best in that act.”

“ Nonsense,” replied Sanson. “ You ought to be able to begin anywhere. Let me have the fourth act.”

Obeying the sovereign command, Fechter plunged in medias res, going through the dramatic interview between Séide and Palmire as far as the question, “ Qui ? Zopire ? ” in scene fourth. Giving this with all the dramatic intensity demanded by the situation, the young tragedian was taken aback by Sanson’s interruption of, “ Plus bête, mon ami, plus bête. ‘ Qui ? Zopire ?' doit être plus bête ! ”

“ I really cannot say it like you, sir,” replied Fechter, and the rebellious youth was ordered down.

Last came Beauvallet, with whom Fechter had much better success, being allowed to go through Séide without comment. “ That will do,” said Beauvallet, “ you are quite as bad as any of those at the Théâtre I'rançais,” — a gruff compliment, which was taken advantage of by him when, after Fechter’s debut, he claimed the revolutionary Séide as a pupil !

At the end of three weeks Fechter left the Conservatoire, disgusted with a régime in which no two professors agreed. Provost, Michelot, and Sanson had removed the reverential veil from his eyes, and losing respect for their judgment, he refused to submit to their instruction. Disheartened, he discarded all thoughts of the stage, although he still memorized the classics and pursued his study of the French language with his old professor, Didier. Putting his best energies into his night work, at the Beaux Arts he labored diligently for three years, and the summer of 1844 found him one of the graduating class competing for the first grand medal, which includes the high honor of being sent to Rome for five years at the expense of the government. Each scholar becomes a state’s prisoner. He is condemned to solitary confinement, with one hour’s solitary exercise per day, and at the end of six weeks, wet clay, his only companion, is expected to take the form of a bas-relief of original composition. The subject is always given and the best work obtains the prize. With emulation fully aroused, anxious also to please his father, whose fondest hope was that his son should be a sculptor, Fechter went to work with gusto upon the story of the Good Samaritan. Making the composition as simple as possible, introducing the bare facts of two male figures and a donkey, Fechter saw in the classic dress an opportunity for the display of his knowledge of the human form, and took advantage of it. Finishing his task long before the expiration of the time specified, he was yet held in durance vile until the last moment, when he returned home to await the verdict of the examining committee.

Meanwhile Fechter’s brother-in-law had been quietly working in an entirely different direction. Never forgetting his own and Fechter’s passion for the stage, and believing that the lad was born for “only this and nothing more,” Monsieur le Beau Frêre inscribed Fechter’s name on the list of applicants for débuts at the Théâtre Français. Any one is entitled to this liberty, and if after a test rehearsal the applicant be deemed satisfactory, he is entitled to three public débuts, after which he is dismissed or received into the regular company, according to the ability displayed. Thus it happened, that while Fechter was nervously awaiting the verdict of the academy, he received an order to present himself before the tribunal of the Théâtre Français. Ignorant of the part played by his brother-in-law, and concluding that he had been called on the strength of merit only, he prepared himself as best he could. Trembling with fear, he faced the unseen and unknown judges who sat before him swallowed up in the darkness which reigns throughout the auditorium of a theatre by day. With a few footlights for inspiration, and Rachel’s sister, Rebecca Felix, for prompter, Fechter began Séide, — the same rôle which he had rehearsed at the Conservatoire, and again selected because of its scope for the display of human passions. Slavery, religious fanaticism, and love make up a character of flesh and blood very difficult to delineate, but entirely in sympathy with a mind like Fechter’s, that seeks for nature in everything that it attempts to grasp. Few of the French classical plays possess the humanity of Mahomet, and it is significant that from the outset Fechter recognized the power of real “situations.” Singularly enough, Talma selected the same rôle for his début,—a fact unknown to Fechter, and therefore suggestive of rapport between the two minds.

Fechter had not recited more than half of Séide, when a voice from out the darkness exclaimed, “ That will do ; now for comedy.” Once more bracing himself to the task, he began the lighteomedy part of Valèro the lover in Molière’s Tartuffe. Again, when halfway through, the unknown voice broke the gloomy silence with, “ That will do ; call another,” and Fechter bowed himself off the stage, utterly ignorant of the effect produced upon the jury. But before leaving the theatre he overheard the dismissal of his successor, a woman, without any trial in comedy. “ At least I have received better treatment than she,” thought Fechter ; and laying this flattering unction to his soul, he went back to his studio in the Rue Paradis des Poissonnières.

Left in uncertainty, Fechter led a divided life between studying for the stage and modelling. Racine, Corneille, and Voltaire shared the honors with the “Seven Capital Sins,” — the subject he had selected to put into clay. These Capital Sins were to be represented around the same table, seated or otherwise, according to individual character, and carrying out the dominant passion in action and facial expression. Surely a good idea, but immensely difficult of treatment. It was because of its difficulty that Fechter selected the subject; and who can tell how great a sculptor posterity has lost in the actor who lives only for the present?

Three months passed by, and, hearing nothing from the Théâtre Français, Fechter was again about to abandon the idea of acting, when a dragoon knocked at his door and placed two offical documents in his hands. The first announced the award by the Académie des Beaux Arts of the first grand medal ; the second contained a call for Fechter’s début at the Théâtre Frangais ! No wonder that the youth of nineteen had an acrès de joie at this embarrassment of riches. No wonder that Fechter père wellnigh danced with delight.

The prize had been won ; would he go ? “ No, I cannot,” said the son.

“You must,” replied the father.

“ It is impossible,” again answered the son. “ My heart is wedded to the theatre.”

So distressed was Fechter père at this decision, that young Hotspur relented so far as to risk his future on a fencing-match with his father, the winner to decide whether it should be Rome or the stage.

“ No, no,” said the father, “ I ’ll do no fencing, for at that you must surely win.”

“ Well, then, we ’ll toss up. Heads I win, tails you lose.”

To this the father consented ; — heads won, and in December, 1844, Fechter made his début in conjunction with Rebecca Felix. The rôles were Séide and Valère, for which he had but one rehearsal. Rebecca Felix performed the opposite part of Palmire.

From the beginning Fechter had ideas of his own ; and once convinced of having attained the truth in his art, no one could turn him from his purpose. The scene of Voltaire’s Mahomet is laid in Mecca. Séide, Mahomet’s slave, is an Arab, and should be dressed like an Arab, precedents to the contrary. So armed with a fine Arab costume which he had hanging in his studio, Fechter went to his dressing-room on the night of his début. There on a chair lay the properties supplied for Séide by the theatre : blue and white satin, to contrast with the pink and white satin of Palmire, who, Arab as she ought to look, would be painted red and white, like the fairest of Circassians ! Stern in his resolve, Fechter laid aside rouge, whiting, and satin, gave a dark olive tint to his complexion, donned his Arab costume, and went to the wings to await his cue.

“ Mon Dieu ! what horror do I behold ? ” screamed out Geoffroy, the administrator of the week. “What do you mean by thus insulting established custom? Off with the vile stuff! Go to your room and put on the proper dress.”

Flying from Geoffrey’s rage, Fechter, with no intention of obeying orders, retired under the stage, where he remained until sought for by the call-boy, when he rushed on to begin the second act, which is Séide’s first appearance. A murmur ran through the audience, followed by a rustle which Fechter took for disapprobation. In an agony of doubt as to what would be the result of his temerity, he had almost lost his presence of mind, when a burst of applause and encouraging bravos assured him of sympathy before, if not behind, the curtain.

The real work of Séide begins with the fourth act, where, in the interview with Palmire, the slave he loves, not knowing her to be his sister, he reveals the dreadful oath he has taken to serve Mahomet by killing Zopire (his unknown father), to whom he is drawn by an unaccountable sympathy. This passionate dialogue, the appearance of Zopire kneeling at the altar of his gods, Séide’s working himself up to the requisite amount of frenzy necessary for the deed, and his return to Palmire after its accomplishment, wild in look and falling from exhaustion, as he exclaims,

“ Où suis-je ? et quelle voix m’appelle ?
Je ne vois point Palmire ; un dieu m’a privé d’elle,”

were a revelation to the spectators of the Théâtre Français, who had been educated on declamation and propriety. Distracted and panting, Séide lay upon the ground, giving the question, “ Qui, Zopire ? ” in answer to that of Palmire, “ Zopire a-t-il perdu la vie ? ” with a start and a heart-rending voice that thrilled the spectators.

“ Ah ! grande Dieu ! Dieu de sang altéré,
Ne persécutez point son esprit égaré.
Fuyons d’ici ! ”

exclaims Palmire. Here Séide tried to rise, but falling on his knees,

“ Je sens que mes genoux s'affaissent,”

delivered the confession of his crime, half reclining and half kneeling, not regaining sufficient strength to rise until the whole is told. No wonder that the public, accustomed to see Séide obey Voltaire’s printed “ business ” (“Il s'assied ”), and sit down in a chair in true Oriental fashion, lost all sense of decorum, and actually called out the real Arab at the end of this act, a compliment rare in those days and never before known in Mahomet. No less effective was Fechter in the last act, where, coming on delirious with poison administered unknown to him by Mahomet’s orders, he calls upon the people to avenge Zopire’s death, denounces Mahomet, and dies in the arms of his followers. Years before this scene had been cut out on account of its difficulty, but Fechter had stomach for it all, and when the curtain fell his début was pronounced the success of the night. Rachel came to him, saying, “You must act in my pieces. I will play with nobody else.”

Fechter selected Valère for his début in comedy, first because it gave him time to rest, Valère not appearing until act second, and secondly because it was short. There is really only one good scene, but quite enough to prove capacity, which was all that the occasion demanded. Again he made a revolution in costume, wearing the dress of Louis the Fourteenth’s time, the scene of Tartuffe being laid in the Paris of le grand monarque. Heretofore the costume had not been strictly correct.

The curtain fell upon a second success. Fechter had won his spurs in tragedy and comedy, in Voltaire and Molière, on the classic stage of the Théâtre Français, and had already gained Rachel’s good-will. Human nature is weak, artists are sadly jealous, and perhaps it is not strange that old sociétaires looked with ill-favor upon the youth of nineteen who had jumped so suddenly into popularity. It was easy to reap a pitiful harvest of revenge, so the following week when Fechter went upon the stage to rehearse Curiace in Corneille’s Les Horaces and Dorante in Le Menteur, which parts he had chosen for his second début, he found himself without support. Righteously indignant at this unseemly slight, Fechter left word that he would not act in either piece, and the manager might get somebody else. Later entreaty availed naught, old sociétaires assumed their old rôles and the début was postponed another week.

And what said Jules Janin, the prince of dramatic critics, the man who cannot be bought with money, but who revenges himself upon such artists as do not pay him court ? “ Bravo ! bravissimo ! ” murmured Janin in private. “Come and see me, Fechter”; and Fechter, quixotically independent and indifferent to the verdict of critics, offended Janin’s amour propre by staying away. So the feuilleton that followed the representations of Les Horaces and Le Menteur in both of which Fechter was supposed to have appeared, but which he threw up as has already been told, contained a most savage onslaught upon Fechter’s Curiace and Dorante. The actor had his critic completely on the hip, but took no further advantage than to write the following private note : —

“DEAR JANIN: — Your criticism is excellent: true in every particular, except in attributing the acting of Curiace and Dorante to me. I performed in neither part !

What did Janin do ? In the next week’s feuilleton the impartial critic stated that, owing to gross carelessness, his manuscript had been misprinted. His remarks apropos of Mr. Fechter were intended for his rehearsal, and not for the performance, in which other artists had appeared. It was quite evident from this second falsehood that Janin meant war to the knife, so Fechter returned the blow by a published statement to the effect that, inasmuch as he had never rehearsed the parts criticised by M. Jules Janin, the explanation of the latter could hardly be called satisfactory ! After this terrible and justifiable exposé, what was left for Janin but silence ? And silence has been his revenge ever since. Even after Fechter’s marvellous success in La Dame aux Caméllas, Janin made but a passing notice of his name, which was recorded among the supernumeraries. Thus even in Paris does personality degrade art and genius.

The young Séide had not been three weeks a pensionnaire at the Théâtre Français before he broke an audacious lance in behalf of republican institution. Entering the green-room for the first time, he saw all the sociétaires ranged on one side of the fireplace and the pensionnaires on the other. The former received their appointment originally from the first Napoleon, who accorded to the Théâtre Français a yearly subvention of L 16,000. Since then sociétaires have been elected by their own body. They divide the profits of the theatre among themselves, take turns in its management, at the end of twenty years can retire on a pension of $ 5,000, or, remaining longer in the profession, are entitled to a still larger pension. Thus does France foster art. Sociétaires consequently hold the reins in their own hands, while pensionnaires, being on a salary and lower in official grade, are made to feel the difference between the throne and the step leading to it. “ What ’s the meaning of this ? ” asked Fechter. “ Why are all the sociétaires in one row and the pensionnaires in another ? Is there no equality among artists?” With this the young democrat sprang from one side of the wide fireplace to the other, and landing among the sociétaires began talking to Beauvallet as if nothing unusual had occurred, and as if pensionnaires had a right to trespass upon sacred ground.

Fechter’s second débuts, when he appeared in Les Horaces with Rachel and in Le Menteur, were received with plaudits. Again in the comedy did Fechter teach actors and public a lesson by wearing a thoroughly correct Charles the Second dress. So pronounced was the success that then and there Fechter became a regular member of the Théâtre Français, the high powers not deeming it necessary to await his third débuts. La Rue being lazy and Maillard ill, Fechter at first had many opportunities of testing his ability. Rachel’s desires were fulfilled, and she found wonderful support in the stripling who, ignoring precedents, made human beings of Hippolyte, Oreste, Xiphares, Bajazet, Nerestan, etc., etc. It was at the conclusion of Zaire that Regnier came behind the scenes, and addressing the assembled sociétaires exclaimed, “ Now mark my words. I tell you that he is better than any of you.” Such outspoken criticism was not likely to promote the interests of a beginner who was himself none too politic. Moreover, Buloz had private reasons for advancing a vastly inferior actor, and Fechter was soon made to feel the difference between favoritism and real worth. Appearing in the comedies of Valerie, Les Femmes Savantes, Les Précieuses Ridicules, Le Dépit, Le Ménage Parisien, Le Misanthrope, Tartuffe, Les Fourberies de Scapin, La Vestale, etc., he at last found himself shorn of almost every part rightfully his own. Notwithstanding that Dumas père had written the prominent male character in La Fille du Régent for Fechter, and had spoken of having done so, when the play came to be cast Fechter found a part in the prologue assigned to him. Easy in his principles, Dumas had been talked over by Buloz and others.

Though Fechter had a right to a third début, with his own selection of parts, though it is a rule that every débutant shall perform the parts of every début at least twice during his first year, or whenever the plays are brought out, these rights were denied. Fechter felt that the sociétaires never intended to give him fair play, and when, at the beginning of 1846, the salary of every pensionnaire except himself was raised, the intention could not be mistaken. After appealing in vain for justice, Fechter frankly avowed his opinion, and at the end of eighteen months left the theatre in a glory of indignation. A man of less spirit and more phlegm might have known better how to subvert the machinations of rivals, but in all probability a man of less spirit would not have been so good an actor and therefore could not have fared so ill. Extraordinary ability is a dangerous possession, unless it be master of the situation. Thus closed Fechter’s career at the Théâtre Français. He left a void that has never been filled.

With illusions gone, with aspirations clouded, Fechter returned to his studio for the fourth time, and betook himself to modelling. Once more he went to work upon the Seven Capital Sins, and it is safe to conclude that he put a great deal of devilish expression into the face of Envy. “ Theatres ! ” he said ; “ never say theatre to me. I’ve done with the stage. Henceforth I am a sculptor.” And so the actor believed, but Fate knew better. One day it chanced — as it always chances, in life as well as in books —that Dacier, the celebrated baritone, brought St. Aubin, once leading actor at the Gymnase and then manager of the Berlin Theatre Royal, to Fechter’s studio for the purpose of seeing his statue. ‘ By the way,’ said St. Aubin, “are you related to fechter of the Théâtre Français, about whom I've heard so much ? ”

“ Well, rather,” replied the sculptor.

“ I am that identical individual.”

“ Is it possible ? Why, then how is it that you are at work here ? '

“ For the reason that I have renounced the stage. I shall never act again.”

“ What, you ? the most promising man of the day ? This will never do. Come with me to Berlin. I am forming a company for the Theatre Royal; you shall have just the parts you like, and as you will be paid by the government, you need have no fears on the score of money.”

Of course Fechter accepted this offer, the Seven Capital Sins were once more wrapped in wet cloths, and the sculptor transformed himself into an actor with the agility of a harlequin. There was nothing that Fechter did not do in Berlin. He was everything by turns and nothing long. He was the best actor in the troupe “either for tragedy, comedy, history, pastoral, pastoral-com - ical, historical-comical, scene indivisable, or poem unlimited.” He had a fine robust tenor voice, and sang, entirely by ear, the music of Daniel in the opera of Le Chalet. He played Paul Taglioni’s ballet of Le Corsair, and executed all the dances with admirable effect. He made a great success in Le Père Turlultutu, one hundred years old, and still another in doubling Buckingham and Tyrrell in Les Enfants d' Edouard, a piece taken from Shakespeare’s Richard the Third. Fechter was so entirely transformed in the second assumption that the public failed to recognize him until the end of the act.

Being a very devout Catholic, the queen abstained from theatrical performances, but after repeated entreaty from the king, with whom Fechter was a great favorite, she consented to assist at a court representation at Potsdam of Bayard Melesville’s comedy Le Chevalier de St. George, and Dupin’s La Polka en Province. Reaching high-water mark, Fechter delighted the court. In the afterpiece Fechter’s comedy was so inimitable, that the king sent his chamberlain behind the scenes to request him to be less funny, otherwise his Majesty would die. Misunderstanding the message, and seeing that the king enjoyed the performance, Fechter became more and more comical, until royalty degenerated into base humanity, and was carried out of his box in a state of complete exhaustion from laughing. The queen expressed her admiration in an autograph letter, accompanying it with busts of Schiller, Goethe, and Herder. Not to be outdone, Fechter modelled a Sister of Charity kneeling at prayer, and sent it to the queen, who placed the artist’s gift in the Royal Gallery, where it still remains.

After an unusually prolonged and successful season of nine months, Fechter returned to Paris in 1847, and immediately signed an engagement for three years at the Vaudeville, where he looked forward to a reign of peace. The manager was all grace, the public all smiles, and his rendering of the hero Albert in Marguérite received the approving nod of claque and critics. About two weeks after its production the manager went to Fechter and with finely simulated enthusiasm exclaimed : “ My dear fellow, your performance was admirable. You are the only man to replace Frederic Lemaitre. I must make another engagement with you. The present one is not equal to your merits. Give me the old contract, and I ’ll have a better one made out.” Dumfoundered at this excess of virtue, and not suspecting foul play, Fechter complied with the request. However, after waiting a reasonable time and waiting in vain, he ventured to ask for the new contract. Mr. Manager coolly ignored it. An unworthy power behind the managerial desk had instigated the treachery and caused the written articles to be destroyed.

Stung to the quick by this baseness, and able to produce witnesses to the existence of a contract, Fechter bad about decided to go to law, when he met an old artist friend, Anthony Berand, who was manager of the Ambigu. “Why, what’s the matter, Fechter?” inquired the latter; “you look upset.”

“ Upset! I should rather think f was.” And then followed a narration of what had occurred.

“Now take my advice,” said the manager, at the conclusion of the woful story. “ Don’t go to law, but come to my theatre. I ’ll double your present salary, and bind myself by more writing than you ’ll care to read.”

“Agreed,” cried Fechter; and the threatening clouds disappeared.

Prior to the beginning of this engagement Fechter went to London with a troupe of admirable artists, including Boccage, Cartigny, Montalent, Josset, Mademoiselle Battiste, granddaughter of the great Battiste, and others. The season at the St. James lasted four months, during which time Fechter appeared in standard plays, the most prominent being Sophocles’s Antigone. It was brought out with great care, and excited unusual attention. l’he queen and prince consort were constant in their attendance, not being absent more than twenty nights. D’Orsay was seen constantly, and with him Louis Napoleon, who made Fechter’s acquaintance and often went behind the scenes to compliment his countryman. Upon bidding Fechter good by, Napoleon seemed much touched at the thought of his own continued exile from France, and said, “The next time we meet will be in the Tuileries.”

“ That is somewhat doubtful,” answered Fechter, “for I really do not intend to be king.”

No,” replied the man of destiny, “ but I intend to be Emperor !

To smile was impossible. Napoleon’s tone and manner were such as to convince Fechter that an oracle had spoken, and when the prince became President of the Republic Fechter knew how the drama would end. Napoleon was right. The next time they met was in the Tuileries, and when fechter acted for him at Fontainebleau the Emperor took off his watch and chain and begged his acceptance of them.

fechter made so strong an impression in London, that Maddox, manager of the Princess’s, went to him with an offer of £ 40 per week for three years, if he would appear on the English stage.

This was a large salary for those days, and the young artist felt greatly inclined to accept it, but there rose up before him the promise to his friend of the Ambigu. He wrote to be released, if release were possible. “ Impossible,” was the reply. “Sue and others are writing plays for you, and I cannot let you go.” So toward the end of February, 1848, Fechter returned to Paris with the expectation of fulfilling this engagement, making his entrée in a new play, La Famille Thureau, the first and only production of an eccentric painter, one Lorentz. During the performance of La Famille Thureau, the story of which is not unlike that of La Dame aux Camélias, Fechter, while engaged in a dialogue of twelve or fifteen minutes, modelled a statue of Poetry three feet high. Fair as the prospect was, it did not long continue. A revolution came between him and public attention ; and as the real drama surpassed in interest any that could be feigned, the Ambigu, following the example of other theatres, closed after a season of twelve nights. Freed from obligations, Fechter wrote to Maddox, accepting his former offer, but the letter arrived too late. The enterprising manager had already engaged an opera troupe, which absorbed his time and money.

Othello’s occupation gone, Fechter solaced himself with fencing and shooting. In those days of anarchy no man knew what destiny lay in wait for him, and discretion led to anticipation of the worst. So Fechter fenced and fired himself into an enviable notoriety. No one dared to quarrel with him, lest a duel might be the consequence. Rochefort always referred to him with deference, and bullies gave him a wide berth. While thus vigorously engaged, Adrien Decourcelles went to Fechter, saying, “ I’ve just written a reactionary play, called Oscar the Twenty-eighth, which if possible I want to have performed. You 're the only man who has pluck enough to brave the crowd. I’ve burlesqued the Revolution. I anticipate what will most certainly happen months hence, and if you and I can show the people themselves as they are and must be, it will be a great feather in our caps.” Fechter read the play, sympathized with the travesty of royalty on the one side and mad democracy on the other, and with his usual daring consented to play Oscar the Twenty-eighth. The next step was to secure a theatre, and they appealed to Moran of the Varietés.

“ But you ’ll have the theatre down,” argued the timid manager.

“ Yes, that’s one side of the argument,” replied author and actor ; "but, on the other hand, you may make a great deal of money. Your theatre is closed ; here is an opportunity of turning an ill wind to good account. If you don’t seize it, some other theatre will.”

Persuaded in spite of himself, Moran consented to the production of Oscar the Twenty-eighth. On the first night no one but members of the press were present; nevertheless, Moran could not be found. Anticipating trouble, he had left Fechter and Decourcelles to bear the onus of it, instead of which they received the plaudits of a non-paying but appreciative audience.

A few hours acquainted Paris with the nature of the entertainment, and for two months, during the turbulent summer of 1848, Oscar the Twenty-eighth laughed in the face of the Revolution, and drew crowded audiences of reactionists. Instead of assaults upon the actors, there were occasional combats among the spectators, at which times Fechter delivered impromptu addresses upon the folly of useless expenditure of force in the presence of a play brought out for the express purpose of putting the people on exhibition. “ Only keep the peace,

and we ’ll show you just how it ought to be done,” said Fechter; and, taken aback by his audacity and wit, the combatants were wont to sit down and look at their own portraits. Nine months later the burlesque of Oscar the Twenty-eighth became a positive reality. Decourcelles and Fechter had merely anticipated history.

Later in this year Fechter fulfilled an engagement at the Théâtre Historique, performing Dumas’s rhymed tragedy of Charles the Seventh, his drama of Angèle, and bringing out for the first time Dumas and Maquet’s Catilina, and Paul Feval’s Mystères de Londres. 1849 found him again at the Ambigu, during which twelve months he created no less than seven characters of totally different types, the pieces being fournier’s Pardon de Bretagne, Paul Feval’s Mauvais Cŏur, Charles Desnoyer’s comedy of Les Trots Étages, Leon Gazlan’s Jeunesse Dorée, Masson’s Les Fils Aymon, Bourgeois’s Notre Dame de Paris, and Labrousse’s Louis the Fourteenth. In the last, Fechter, in the hero who attempts to save the queen, assumed seven different characters and surprised the audience by his wonderful “ make-ups ” ; being especially efective as a cab-driver. When the Courier of Lyons was brought out at the Gaieté, a year later, Paulin Menier made an exact copy of Fechter’s cabdriver, and gained a success thereby.

1850 and 1851 were equally divided between the Théâtre Historique and the Porte-Saint-Martin. In this time, Dumas’s Pauline and Corsican Brothers, Buhver’s Money, Emile Souvestre’s Le Lion et le Moucheron, De Montepin’s Le Vol à la Duchesse, George Sand’s Claudie, and Thiboust’s Le Diable were first put upon the stage, The Corsican Brothers ran for one hundred nights ; while Money, though pronounced a great artistic success, only held the stage forty nights, it being too high comedy for a melodramatic theatre. Claudie, at the Porte-SaintMartin, rivalled the Corsican Brothers in the length of its popularity, whereby “ hangs a tale.” When the drama was first read, Boccage, to whom belonged the leading rôle, that of an old man, went to Fechter saying, “We can offer you nothing in Claudie, as I have the first part, and no other is good enough for you.”

“ On the contrary,” rejoined F echter, “ I have taken a fancy to the ploughboy.”

“What, the third part in the piece? ”

“Never mind, we ’ll see what can be made of it.”

So Claudie was mounted and Madame Sand came from Nohant to “assist ” at the dress-rehearsal. At the end of the first act Fechter overheard an excited dialogue between Madame Sand and Boccage in the dressingroom adjoining his own.

“It will kill Claudie,” said Madame Sand. “ I will not permit such an outrage. If you allow that man to act, I ’ll withdraw the play.”

“ But, my dear madame,” retorted Boccage, “ you don’t know what you are talking about. That man, as you call him, is doing you a great honor. He has taken an inferior part out of compliment to you, and will act it as no one else can. My advice to you is to keep quiet.”

But Madame Sand turned a deaf ear to this advice, and with threats upon her lips left Boccage to his own reflections.

“ What’s the matter, Boccage ? ” asked Fechter, as soon as the lady had retired.

“ Why, that foolish woman says you sha’ n’t play in Claudie. She’s made a plough-boy, and is very much disgusted with you because you dress him in peasant’s clothes and give him a patois.”

“ Very well,” answered Fechter, “ then I refuse the part. I won’t go on with the rehearsal.”

“ But we are lost if you don’t. For my sake, pay no attention to her, and go through your part.”

Gradually soothed into complaisance, Fechter put on his street dress, spoke the purest of French, and at the close of the next act Madame Sand exclaimed : “ What a charming young man ! Why did he not look and act this way before ? ”

Fechter had made a gentleman of her plough-boy.

“ Now,” said Fechter, at the conclusion of the rehearsal, “if I can’t do that part as I feel it ought to be done, I won’t appear at all. Madame Sand can write, but she has proved that she doesn’t know the meaning of acting. She has insulted me, and I’ve done with her.”

Of course, much expostulation ensued, and it was finally decided that, Madame Sand to the contrary, Fechter should have his own way, by which he made the success of the play. “ Take me to him,” exclaimed Madame Sand, when the curtain fell upon the first night of Claudie,—“take me to him, that I may know him.”

“ I refuse to know Madame Sand,” was Fechter’s answer to this message. “ You need not bring her. I do not forget an insult.”

Madame Sand did not obtain her introduction ; and when she wrote Mauprat especially for the man whom she declared would kill Claudie, the proud actor refused to accept his part.

The production of Le Diable being assigned to Fechter, he drew the dresses, read the play to the actors, superintended the rehearsals, and had it acted five days after receiving the manuscript. It was at this theatre also that Fechter gave up thirty thousand francs of salary to the minor actors who were suffering in consequence of the manager’s failure during the engagement of another artist.

The next six years—from 1852 to 1858 — Fechter was the star of the Vaudeville, where ten new plays were produced in which he personated the hero. These creations were Gozlan’s Le Coucher d'une Étoile and Louise de Nauteuil, Bayard’s Hortense de Ceruy and Les Contes de Boccace, Dumas’s La Dame aux Camélias, Barrière’s Les Filles de Marbre and La Vie en Rose, On Demande un Gouverneur, Scribe’s La Fille de Trente Ans, and Maquet’s Les Dettes de Cŏur. Successful in all, Fechter made a great impression in his very difficult rôle in Hortense de Ceruy. This, however, was eclipsed by the furore he created in La Dame aux Camélias. Fechter objected to the fourth act of this play as originally written, and suggested certain changes of situation and dialogue, to which Dumas at first willingly assented, but over which he grew exceedingly nervous as the trial night approached.

“ If my play is a failure I ’ll lay the blame on you,” said Dumas to Fechter.

“ Nous verrons,” responded the actor.

The curtain went up, the curtain went down, and the fourth act was over. “ What mean that noise and tremendous applause ? ” asked Fechter of himself. “ Is it a failure ? Is it an expression of disapprobation ? ”

“ Fechter, Fechter, you have made a sensation, you are called! ” And the Vaudeville witnessed an expression of unexampled enthusiasm. The chef of the claque came behind the scenes, in great trepidation. “ It was n’t I ! ” he cried. “ It was not my doing. The people did it, tell the manager. I tried to keep applause back for the last act, but they would have their own way.” Dumas hurried to Fechter and clasped him in his arms ; while Madame Doche, who had had nothing to do with the sensation of this act, clever as she was in what followed, calmly remarked : “ Ah oui. Il m’a bien secondé! ”

This play, which, in spite of AngloSaxon criticism, is one of the most moral ever written, ran for upwards of three hundred nights, and, whether Doche, Jeanne Ellsler, or others personated the heroine, the success was equally great with Fechter as Armand. What Dumas thought all who read may learn : —-

“Thanks to Fechter. What can I say of him that all the world does not say and know? Fechter is the most youthful, most ardent, most enthusiastic, most insinuating of artists. What variety of talents, what unpretending skill in conception, what marvellous, thrilling, electric execution ! Be it in Mauvais Cœur at the Ambigu, in the Corsican Brothers at the Théâtre Historique, in Claudie at the Porte-SaintMartin, in Hortense de Ceruy or in La Dame aux Camélias at the Vaudeville, he is always the character first; then those happy, unexpected inspirations which are the seal of great artists, which transport an entire audience at once, and invest the character with charms and proportions that the author himself, with all his high ambition, never dreamed of. In La Dame aux Camélias the illusion is complete ; it is not an actor playing, it is the man taken in the very act. Fechter has the action, the look, the voice of our inmost emotions, of our most frequent passions. He is himself, he is ourselves. For a drama in which I have endeavored to cause the foot-lights to disappear and to bring the spectator in direct communication with its characters, for this study in which I have wished that a generation might live over even its errors, where could I have found a surer accomplice than Fechter, young in years, mature in talent ? I am happy, it is but my duty to avow it. I seek, I ask in vain who could have given to Armand Duval the convincing poetry, the noble jealousy, the indescribable susceptibilities of feelings, the naturalness, the terror, with which he shaded the first three acts ? As for the frenzy of the fourth, at the end of which the entire audience rose to cheer and to recall him, — him and Madame Doche, — if I were not so satisfied at having written the piece, I should wish some one else to have been its author that I might say of Fechter all that ought to be said. His heart beat in every part of the theatre. In the fifth act he gave the most piercing cry of which human grief is capable. Happy the brother author who next has Fechter for his hero ! Happy I, who, taking my turn in representing the public, shall go to hear him and to clap my hands ! ”

Did ever actor receive greater praise from dramatist? And well might Dumas exclaim, he who had done all for the heroine, making Armand a secondary figure, and expecting no more from him than is down in the book ! It is cleverness that succeeds in doing well what the author has made pre-eminent ; it is genius that carries the author’s conception beyond the letter, and makes the less appear the greater. After seeing Fechter in Armand, Lemaître went to him, saying : “ You are a great fool, my dear fellow. You throw yourself away. You always do justice to every portion of your rôle. Your performance is so even, so good throughout, that the audience don’t appreciate you half as much as the)? ought. Now take my advice; follow my example. Save yourself for your great ‘ points,’ and the people will be so startled by the strong contrast as to go quite wild. Don’t you do anything in Armand until the fourth act, and then you’ll see a hurricane of enthusiasm.” But Fechter refused to take Lemaître’s advice. He is too true an artist to play for effects, and the great Frederic left him with the final remark, that, of all fools, he was the biggest.

Looking back upon La Dame aux Camélias, it is interesting to know that, though rehearsed on the stage of the Conservatoire during the Revolution, the moral censors of the Republic would not consent to its production ; and not until the days of the Empire did Dumas’s masterpiece receive gracious treatment. Count Moray attended the first rehearsal, expecting to be greatly shocked. “ What fools those Republicans were ! ” he muttered, and immediately withdrew every objection.

Simultaneously with Scribe’s La Fille de Trente Ans came Sardou’s Pattes de Mouche. “ Which shall we accept ? ” asked the manager.

Pattts de Mouche, by all means,” said Fechter. “ It is admirable. Scribe’s play will fail, in spite of acting.” When Scribe heard the verdict, he went to Fechter and upbraided him. " Say no more about it,” replied Fechter.

“ It was policy, not friendship, that prompted my decision. As a friend I will do anything for you, Scribe, Your comedy shall be accepted.”

It was produced, it failed ; the theatre was saved by a revival of La Dame aux Camélias; and Sardou’s Pattes de Mouche fulfilled Fechter’s predictions by running one hundred and fifty nights at the Gymnase.

In Les Contes de Boccace, a five-act comedy. Fechter sustained no less than nine characters; while in La Vie en Rose he became the hero of a lawsuit as well as of the play. Not having read the piece before its acceptance by the manager, Fechter declared that he would not perform in it, unless the last two acts were entirely changed. He would not be connected with another failure. The parts had been given out, the date of production announced, and the manager, in despair, resorted to law. Law, however, did not produce the desired effect, as the verdict accorded three months’ grace to Fechter, after which he was expected to comply with the manager’s demands. Fechter asked for no better terms, as it only needed delay to kill the obnoxious play. Completely at Fechter’s mercy, the manager went to him, saying:—

“ Dictate your own terms. Barriere is down stairs in a hack. He will do anything you please, provided you 'll play in his piece immediately.”

“Very well,” responded Fechter; “let him alter those last acts as at first suggested, and I ’ll rehearse.”

Thus, while the company rehearsed the first three acts, Barrière reconstructed the last two, and La Vie en Rose had a rose-colored reception from the public.

One night, during the performance of the comedy On Demande un Gouverneur, Fechter was greatly inconvenienced by talking that proceeded from a stage-box. Nothing so embarrasses or mortifies an artist as this most brutal of insults, and nothing so justifies resentment. Louder and louder grew the noise, until, in righteous exasperation, Fechter impulsively flung his cane into the box with such force that it whizzed like a bullet. He then coolly rang a bell, and ordered the astonished servant to stop the noise and fetch him his cane. A dead silence took possession of the previously boisterous spectators, and a cold shiver passed over the rest of the audience, who saw in this act a speedy challenge, followed by a duel, and the possible death of one of the combatants. " Fechter’s done it again,” whispered those of his friends who knew his readiness to resent injustice and insult; and Fechter himself was quite prepared for the worst, so that when the card of M. le Conte—was sent to him in his dressing-room, he expected to be called out.

“ Monsieur Fechter,” said M. le Conte, upon entering the dressingroom, “ I owe you a very humble apology for my conduct. A short time ago I was intoxicated and insulted you unconsciously. Your cane brought me to my senses, and I now come to you for pardon.”

Of course Fechter’s wrath was quickly appeased, and M. le Conte took his departure with protestations of everlasting friendship upon his lips.

Leaving the Vaudeville, fechter made a successful tour through the provinces, ending with Lyons, where he was to give six representations of La Dame aux Camélias. Hisses greeted his first appearance, the Lyonnais having given their allegiance to another actor in Armand, and being determined to make Lyons thoroughly uncomfortable for Fechter. “ Ladies and gentlemen,” said Fechter, approaching the foot-lights, “ it makes no possible difference whether you like or dislike me, whether I act or do not act ; I merely wish to say that, if I hear another hiss, I will leave the theatre and never enter it again.”

Silenced by this independence, the Lyonnais kept their madness in the background, but preserved a discouraging gloom until the end of the fourth act, when Fechter’s passion broke down their prejudice, and former enemies became ardent admirers. Before Fechter bade farewell to Lyons, his six nights had lengthened into three months.

Returning to Paris, Fechter accepted a profitable engagement at the PorteSaint-Martin, where at the end of ten months, after having appeared in two new parts, in Sejour’s Fils de Nuit, and Maquet’s Belle Gabrielle, his engagement was cut short by a dangerous attack of typhoid fever, which seized him suddenly while acting. Singularly enough, he had but just climbed a wall and been fired upon from below by an actor who was supposed to be pursuing him, when he fell upon the stage as if he had been shot. A short time before, an actor at the same theatre had barely escaped death, owing to the pistol being loaded; and imagining a _ similar accident, Fechter’s friend startied the audience by crying out, “ I have killed him ! ” but afterwards pacified the excited multitude by assuring them there was no wound. For five months Fechter did not leave his bed ; nor was he able to resume his profession until seven months later. Overwork had brought on disease, and rest was his only salvation. During the last five months of his stay at the Porte-Saint-Martin he had rehearsed pieces for the Odéon, the management of which he was about to assume. Exhausted Nature took her revenge. Upon recovery, Fechter carried out this intention, and before himself reappearing, mounted André Gerard for Frederic Lemaitre. He made his rentree in Ponsard’s L'Honneur et l'Argent.

Loving the art of acting quite as much if not more than his own personal advancement, Fechter assumed the management of the Odéon with the intention of producing standard plays in a manner heretofore unknown. Racine, Corneille, Voltaire, Molière, and Beaumarchais were to be humanized for the first time. Rhyme and hexameter were to be given colloquially. History was to be respected in mise en scène and costume. Turks were not to sit on French upholstery, nor was imperial Rome to be longer shorn of its splendor of appointments. If the sociétaires of the Théâtre Français were content to violate the laws of eternal fitness, at least Fechter aspired to better things. Such audacity filled the sociétaires with anger and dismay. “ What ! a minor theatre dare to produce our pieces and in a style superior to ourselves ! We will show Fechter our superiority.”

So when Fechter brought out Tartuffe, he playing Tartuffe for the first time, the same comedy was announced at the Théâtre Français. It would be given three nights a week, until the freebooter of the Odeon was sufficiently punished; but the public failed to appreciate this consideration, and the irate societaires were obliged to withdraw Tartuffe after the second night. Not so Fechter. His interpretation of the entire comedy was a revelation to playgoers. Night after night found Meissonnier at the theatre, making sketches of the costumes and scenery. “ Il a mis Tartuffe dans ses meubles,” said the journals. Fould, Minister of State, wrote to Fechter, expressing his delight, and declaring that he enjoyed it with all the relish of a new play. But Fould was first a servant of the government, then a man ; and when the sacred powers of the sacred Théâtre Français demonstrated to him the impropriety of Fechter’s poaching upon their ground, Fould requested the withdrawal of Tartuffe. “ No,” replied Fechter, “ I cannot. A success of thirty nights proves that my efforts in behalf of dramatic art are appreciated by the public. When the sun of Tartuffe sets, that of Britannicus will rise with equal splendor.” And he meant what he said. While acting in two new plays, Le Rocher de Sysiplte and Emile Angiêr’s La Jeunesse, Britannicus and Macbeth were receiving the most elaborate and careful rehearsals ; and when Fechter closed his first season of nine months, he determined that his reopening should mark an era in dramatic art.

Going to England during the summer of 1860 for the purpose of regaining his health, Fechter received flattering offers from Harris, who had superseded Maddox in the management of the Princess’s ; but all aglow with the idea of bringing out French and English classics in his own language, he refused to be tempted. Then going to the Tuileries he applied to the Emperor for what is called la liberté des théâtre, that is, the right to perform such plays as had heretofore been the exclusive property of the Théâtre Français. Receiving Fechter with cordiality, Napoleon declared that if his own consent were alone required, the despotic law should be immediately rescinded. Unfortunately he could only recommend its annulment to the Chamber of Deputies, and this he would do most gladly. For once the Chamber of Deputies failed to agree with their imperial master, and Fechter impulsively bade farewell to the Paris he loved so well, declared he had no intention of devoting his life to melodrama, and crossed over to England. Had he waited patiently his dream would have been realized, for Napoleon never forgot Fechter’s request, and two years later brought about the necessary reform. “ Come back,” said the Emperor, but the battle had been fought and Fechter could not resign his victory. He had conquered a foreign tongue and a foreign audience, and could not leave Shakespeare for Racine.

Understanding English perfectly when spoken, Fechter flattered himself that it would cost little effort to speak it equally well, but the mystified “What ?” of the cabman, to whom he gave directions upon arriving in London, convinced the voluntary exile that there was no royal road to Shakespeare. Devoting himself for four months to our stern Anglo-Saxon language, he studied sixteen and eighteen hours out of the twenty-four ; and selecting Ruy Blas, which had never been acted in English, as less likely to display his deficiencies of pronunciation than a native play, made his début at the Princess’s Theatre on the 27th of October, 1860. The novelty of seeing an eminent French actor translated into English created more than a momentary sensation. The papers were enthusiastic, and Ruy Blas became the hero of a hundred nights. Not yet daring to trust himself with classical language, Fechter’s next venture was in the Corsican Brothers, after which, feeling more glib with his tongue, he made his comedy entrée on February 11, 1861, in Don Cæsar de Bazan. Six weeks later, the date being March 20th, he first essayed Hamlet. It was aiming high, but not higher than he could attain. Courage is the friendly breeze that ever fills the sails of genius ; and Fechter, long familiar with Shakespeare, did not feel as if he were undeitaking anything new. His conception of Hamlet was so thoroughly original, that it became the open-sesame to conversation in households and clubs. The actor was transformed into a lion, members of the royal family, the aristocracy and gentry rivalling one another in offers of hospitality. His rendering of Hamlet was generally praised by thoughtful critics.

“ Perhaps,” wrote Charles Dickens, no innovation in art was ever accepted with so much favor by so many intellectual persons pre-committed to, and preoccupied by, another system as Mr. Fechter’s Hamlet.” There were those who exclaimed, as they exclaim in America, " C'est magnifique, mais ce n’est pas la guerre,” but he had powerful support from the best minds. It was after seeing Fechter in Hamlet that Dickens sought an introduction, which took place at a dinner given by Chorley, the musical critic, and which led to a lasting friendship. So great an impression did Fechter make, that Hamlet continued running for one hundred and fifteen nights, from the 20th of March until the end of August! For twenty-one nights it was acted six times in the week ; but the strain being too great on Fechter, who feels his text most acutely, it was limited to four nights a week.

Taking a vacation of two months, Fechter reappeared on the 23d of October, in Othello. Here was another hard nut for the critics to crack, and the war of pro and con waxed fierce and loud. Fechter’s Othello was his own, and for forty nights the theatre overflowed with deeply curious and deeply interested audiences. He issued an acting edition of the play, in which all his stage business and reasons thereon were given. For years there had been no such excitement over legitimate drama, and one might have supposed that the management would have been sufficiently clever to have taken advantage of it; but no, Christmas was approaching, and pantomime must be produced. Othello was good, but Columbine and Harlequin were better. Fechter refused to act in connection with the pantomime, retired from the theatre, and left Mr. Harris to ruminate on the fallibility of managerial judgment; for in accordance with Fechter’s predictions, the public that had applauded Shakespeare failed to recognize the superiority of his successor.

“ Come back,” implored Mr. Harris at the close of the third week.

“ No, I am not a feather to be blown about at will,” replied Fechter. “ You said you would run your pantomime ten weeks, and run it you may. When I return, it will be to perform Dago and not Othello.”

Mr. Harris did not love Fechter for thus paying him in his own coin, human nature never enjoys retorts of this description, — but being helpless, submitted to the actor’s terms and gathered a rich harvest in consequence.

Iago attracted large audiences for several weeks. Then Fechter brought out The Golden Daggers, a drama taken by himself from Paul Feval’s novel of the same name, the scene being laid in Mexico. Admirably as the drama was acted and beautifully as it was put upon the stage, it failed to be a pecuniary success. A modern story and perfectly quiet, natural acting disappointed the general public. “ There ’s no use in going to see that.” they said ; “ it’s just what people do at home.”

So Hamlet was revived. At this time Fechter received a fine offer from Ullman to visit the United States ; but not wishing to leave England during the great Exhibition, when he expected to continue acting at the Princess’s, he declined. Then came Hairis’s revenge. Fechter had dared to dictate to him, and would not perform Hamlet more than four nights in the week. London would teem with people, the theatre be patronized no matter what the attraction ; Fechter should be sacrificed. Going to the generoushearted Frenchman with a pitiful story of woes, Harris declared that Harrison {the tenor) stood ready to take the theatre off his hands and pay him a handsome bonus, provided Fechter could be induced to cancel his engagement. Touched in his weakest point, his heart, Fechter consented to withdraw, and on a Saturday morning wrote Mr. Harris to that effect. On the following Monday night Mr. Charles Kean appeared at the Princess’s in Hamlet! The story about Harrison had been a miserable ruse. Hamlet with Kean will take as well as with Fechter, thought Mr. Harris, but again did he reckon without his public. Finding out the mistake, Mr. Kean conveniently managed to turn his foot on this first night, and did not appear for a fortnight, when Hamlet was quietly ignored. Once more did the honorable manager beg Fechter to return, and once more did he refuse.

But this scurvy trick was most unfortunate for Fechter, as it prevented him from acting during the Exhibition, — a consummation he had devoutly wished. Weary of managerial chicanery, he became lessee of the Lyceum, which opened on the 10th of January, 1863, with The Duke’s Motto. For seven months this drama drew great houses, until Fechter, satiated with Henri de Lagardere, dropped it in the full tide of success. Reopening with Bel Demonio on the 15th of October, this highly colored drama bade fair to rival The Duke’s Motto in popularity, when Fechter’s evil genius stepped between him and fortune. On the one hundred and seventy-fifth night, Fechter, in making his entrance through a window, caught his spur in the sill, and fell so violently as to drive the hook of his scabbard through his right hand. Ready to faint with pain, he yet went through the scene, and even finished the play, not realizing how dangerous a wound he had received. Arising the next morning with the intention of acting, his physician found him shaving himself.

“You had better go back to bed,” said the doctor.

“ O no, I shall act to-night.”

“ Indeed ! we ’ll see about that. Do you feel anything queer about the jaws ? ”


“ Well, keep very quiet. I ’ll return in a few hours.”

Return he did, and, as he expected, found Fechter in bed, but fortunately with no symptoms of lockjaw. The exhausted actor and manager lay for three weeks in a state of stupor, rarely conscious, saving when food was administered. Escaping the terrible death of lockjaw, he went to the Isle of Wight, where he gained strength so rapidly as to venture to act Bel Demonio for the benefit of the sufferers from the Sheffield inundation. In acknowledging the generous donation of £ 203, the entire receipts, the Mayor of Sheffield offered to return £ 80, the fund having reached the sum necessary to meet the most desperate cases. “ Give the rest to the poor,” Fechter replied.

The night following this benefit Fechter broke down, and three more weeks passed before he was able to resume his profession. Such contretemps were not likely to advance the interests of a theatre of which he was the pecuniary attraction ; and the Shakespeare tercentenary celebration being announced for April 23 (1864), Fechter determined to bring out Hamlet with every possible effect. His orders were not fulfilled until a fortnight later, and the indignant manager indulged in the luxury of a lawsuit. Hamlet then ran forty nights.

The autumn season of 1864 opened with Paul Meurice’s comedy-drama of The King’s Butterfly. Splendidly gotten up and introducing Fechter’s favorite blood-mare, Minerva, who understood Frencli and English equally well, — knew almost as much as her namesake, and acted in a wonderfully human way, — the new sensation endured three or four months, when it was withdrawn to make way for The Mountebank, which was no more nor less than Belphegor entirely rewritten by Charles Dickens, with a child’s part introduced to display the great dramatic ability of Fechter’s son Paul, then a child of seven. The counterpart of his father in appearance, — it was like seeing him through the small end of an opera-glass ; — the lad astonished everybody by his acting. On the first night he brought tears into the eyes of the old artists around him, and introduced bits of “business that amazed even his father. But Paul soon tired of the many repetitions, and being a pet with the ladies, found it much more interesting to play to the boxes and be showered with bonbons, than to lose himself in his part.

“ How can you smile at those women when the situations are so tragic ? ” asked the father in despair.

“ Well, but father, you don’t really die, you know. It isn’t true. It’s only make-believe. We all come home alive and enjoy ourselves, so where’s the harm ? ”

Fechter saw that the stage would be Paul’s ruin, regardless of pecuniary loss withdrew the drama, and brought out The Roadside Inn, a new version - of Robert Macaire. This novel rendering of an old friend drew immense houses for three months, and might have continued indefinitely but for the Prince of Wales’s desire to witness a performance of Ruy Blas.

“ If I comply with your request, I ’ll surely ruin the future of I he Roadside Inn,” said Fechter.

“ Not if you give Ruy Blas on a Saturday night and by royal command,” argued the Prince.

Very doubtful as to consequences, Fechter complied. The papers waxed furious at the idea of royalty leaving native talent unhonored, and commanding a performance at the theatre of what they were pleased to call “ a French importation.” The treasury took £ 230, £ 10 more than the theatre held, and enthusiasm ran riot. But alas for The Roadside Inn ! The next Monday’s receipts drooped to £ 70, and the previously successful drama fell into a rapid decline. The public is a queer monster, far queerer than his Royal Highness the Prince of Wales ever dreamed, and the only sop Fechter could throw to it was Ruy Blas. Victor Hugo reigned until the close of the summer season of 1865.

The Lyceum is not a theatre adapted to the legitimate drama. When Fechf ter assumed its management, he did so as a pis aller ; and while earnestly longing to produce other Shakespearian plays, he found himself hedged in by fate. He thought in prose what no less a man than Garrick had written in verse, —

“ If an empty bouse, the actor’s curse,
Shows us our Lears and Hamlets lose their force,
Unwilling we must change the nobler scene,
And in our turn present you Harlequin.
Quit poets and set carpenters to work,
Show gaudy scenes, or mount the vaulting Turk.
For though we actors one and all agree
Boldly to struggle for our — vanity.
If want comes in, misfortune must retreat:
Our first great ruling passion is — to eat! ”

With this idea of eating in view, Fechter began the autumn of 1865 with The Watch-Cry, a drama in three acts, founded on the story of the three brothers Salviati. It held up its head quite firmly for two months; but as Fechter represented a dumb man and confined his language to that of pantomime, the people declared that he did not talk enough. “ We want to hear as well as see him.” Wishing to gratify this amiable desire, Fechter produced The Master of Ravenswood, on December 23, 1865, and made so deep an impression in the romantic Edgar that he played nothing else for the remainder of the season.

September, 1866, saw Fechter personating Hamlet for two weeks. Going from one extreme to the other he revived The Corsican Brothers, which attracted excellent audiences for one month. Then came Fechter’s drama of Rouge et Noir, founded on Thirty Years of a Gambler’s Life. It was pronounced good work, and lived luxuriously for one hundred and fifty nights.

Feeling himself utterly incompetent to circumvent the harpies who fattened upon his treasury, Fechter determined to retire from the lesseeship of the Lyceum, and henceforth confine himself to his proper sphere of acting and stage direction. Behind the scenes Fechter is a master; before them he is, like most artists, a child. Wishing to close his theatre with éclat, he produced The Lady of Lyons, and created so great a furore in Claude Melnotte as to astonish even Bulwer. It ran seventy nights, the curtain falling last upon it on November 16, 1867. Then followed the great success at the Adelphi of No Thoroughfare, dramatized by Fechter, Dickens, and Wilkie Collins, and acted one hundred and fifty-one times. Fechter’s powerful rendering of Obenreizer made the drama; and no sooner was it withdrawn than he went to Paris with Dickens to superintend the rehearsals of its French adaptation, L'Abîme. Returning to the Adelphi, Fechter won double laurels for one hundred nights in his clever drama of Monte Cristo, after which he appeared in Black and White, the joint work of himself and Wilkie Collins.

Not having visited the provinces since 1865, when his circuit had been limited to Glasgow, Birmingham, and Liverpool, Fechter gave eight months of last year to a tour through Great Britain and Ireland. Even Liverpool acknowledged his power. This city is not greatly given to legitimate drama, nevertheless Liverpool wanted to see Fechter in Hamlet. “Very well,” said Fechter, “Black and White cannot be withdrawn, because it is filling the theatre ; but if you like I will give you one act of Hamlet every night until finished, and you shall have it after the drama.”

The Liverpoolians readily assented to this arrangement, and, putting all his intensity into each act, Fechter never acted Hamlet as equally as on those five nights; Liverpool was an easy conquest, but not so Manchester. This good town had a grievance. Years before Manchester had commanded, had petitioned, had finally implored Fechter to come to them, but it was not until this season that he was able to respond to the prayer. Then Manchester arose in all her might to resent a prolonged absence, which she chose to consider a slight. Manchester hides neither her light nor her cutlery under a bushel. The world may think what it pleases of London as the heart and head of Great Britain, but Manchester has opinions of its own, pre-eminent among which is the religious conviction that Manchester is the centre of the solar system. Consequently when Fechter did appear at the Theatre Royal, it became incumbent upon a club clique to punish him for his previous indifference. So the clique decided that Fechter should play to empty benches until the production of Hamlet, when the entire solar system should shine upon the star. Feeling the injustice of such treatment, and determined to preserve his personal as well as professional dignity, Fechter held the cards in his own hands and won the game. Playing to audiences of three and four hundred, he never acted better in his life. For those who did come to see him he felt that he owed all that he could give ; for those who childishly attempted to humiliate him he inserted a card at the head of the play-bills, in which Mr. Fechter took great pleasure in announcing that his engagement would not be prolonged after the performances of Ruy Blas and Black and White ! He was as good as his word, and the clubs of Manchester discovered that for once they had found their match.

Accepting an offer to visit this country, Fechter hurried back to London, and, after fourteen farewell performances at the Princess’s of Ruy Blas, Lady of Lyons, and Hamlet, set sail for America, where he has found as ardent appreciation and as warm friends as in the older world. " Come back soon,” said the Prince of Wales on that last of farewell nights. “ Remember that we cannot get on without you.” Well might even flippant royalty confess as much, for it will be long ere England salutes the peer of that “French importation,” Charles Albert Fechter.

Kate Field.