Henry Irving

To say that of all the actors who have appeared in this country Mr. Irving is the hardest to criticise fairly and intelligently is to state a vexatious truth with extreme moderation. The leading English critics, after years of familiarity with his acting, are still puzzled by it, and find a difficulty, which seems almost exactly proportioned to their acuteness and candor, in analyzing it and in accounting for its effects. And the problem is complicated, or appears to be complicated, for Americans by the introduction of a peculiar factor : this is the necessity, immediately imposed upon us by Mr. Irving and his friends, of setting off our knowledge of his slowly won success against any lively dissatisfaction which may attend our early impressions of his performance. His great success is indeed not to be doubted ; but the amplest knowledge on this head will include the facts that even in England there are a small number of persons, of a high intellectual order, who detest and abhor his playing, and that every where, in the best English society, “ to admire him without reserve is held eccentric to the verge of affectation.” As for the deprecation which is used by Mr. Irving’s admirers to quench the anticipated violence of our first displeasure, surely the like of it was never before known in the case of an actor. “ Be patient with his mannerisms ” is the innocent and slender phrase employed ; but this is presently found to bear an awful burden of meaning. We find that we are asked to forgive, under the name of mannerisms, sins which we have always accounted unpardonable in a dramatic artist. It is much, it seems at first blush, as if an amateur of painting were to say, “ You will be delighted with M. Blank’s pictures, He has some unpleasant mannerisms, to be sure, — his coloring is poor and his drawing incorrect; but in spite of these, you are sure to like his work.” Or as if an acquaintance were to recommend for confidential clerk a young man who was a little weak on the score of honesty and accuracy, but, aside from these trifling mannerisms, had every desirable qualification. The view which a majority of Mr, Irving’s American auditors naturally take, at first, of his most conspicuous faults is highly unfavorable. It is, indeed, the view which the more critical portion of his English audiences took when they were beginning to make his acquaintance. And the difference in the attitudes of the French and the English nations towards the art of acting cannot be better indicated than in this: that Mr. Irving, in spite of his faults, is to-day accepted and recognized as the greatest actor of his land; while, if he had been a Frenchman, he and his “ mannerisms " would not have been tolerated on the Parisian stage for a month, and probably not for a single performance.

In Mr. William Archer’s exceedingly brilliant “ study ” of Mr. Irving, which was printed in London a few months ago, it was said that the English critics, “ obeying an inevitable tendency of dramatic criticism,” have “ made Mr. Irving a law unto himself.” In this country, the dangers attendant upon close familiarity with the actor do not yet beset us ; and I plead an American’s “ innocence of eye” — to use Mr. Ruskin’s happy phrase — in extenuation of my somewhat premature attempt to determine Mr. Irving’s rank as an artist. The disadvantages of slight acquaintance with the actor, on the part of the general audience or the particular critic, are of course plain. But it is most interesting and suggestive to see how swiftly and how completely the story of Mr, Irving’s later career in England has been repeated in America. Ten years or more of London have already been epitomized in four months of New York, Boston, and Chicago. Even now we have a small but knowing faction who violently reject and refuse him, denying him even the name of actor; a large and fashionable class who are inclined to demonstrate their culture by taking him as the object of a cult; a great public who accept him, with all his demerits, as an artist of remarkable parts and powers. In other words, Mr. Irving has met with full and hearty recognition in America, and with a remarkable measure of success. And although the voice of fierce dispraise is not and never will be quite silenced, the number of conversions which have been made from the ranks of his early detractors is comically large. The “ heretics,” who used to go to scoff, already remain, as Mr. Archer says, “not, perhaps, to pray, but at least to reflect and qualify their unbelief.”

Let us swiftly, but not carelessly, review the grosser blemishes of Mr. Irving’s style. I do not find these so offensive that I cannot endure them for the sake of becoming familiar with his art, though it is an odd experience to subject one’s self to a hardening process as the condition precedent of sensitiveness and insight; but, on the other hand, I earnestly protest against any and every attitude of mind in Mr. Irving’s auditors which shall result in their disregarding or tolerating his more atrocious offenses. Mr. Irving, as has been succinctly said, can “ neither walk nor talk.” Amazing paradox, — of which “ the time ” now “gives proof,”— that the most successful and cultivated of English actors should not have mastered the rudiments of his art! Whatever explanation or apology there may be, the fact remains, and its enormity cannot be gainsaid. He has been on the stage the larger part of his life, and yet he has not learned how to sit, stand, or move with the ease, repose, vigor, and grace which are by turns or all together appropriate to attitude or action ; and, worse even than this, he does not know how to speak his own language. He has many lucid intervals of elegant motion and pure speech, — trebly aggravating as a demonstration that his faults are not the consequence of utter physical incapacity, — but he can never be quite trusted with his legs, his shoulders, or his tongue for five consecutive minutes. His ungracefulness is bad, but, as was just implied, it is a venial fault in comparison with his atrocious enunciation. If there were such a crime as lingua-matricide, Mr. Irving would have suffered its extreme penalty long ago ; for night after night he has done foul murder upon his mother-tongue. Soon after his arrival in New York, Mr. Irving was reported to have said that he hoped the Americans would not be intolerant towards any English mannerisms of his speech which might offend their unaccustomed ears. If he said this, and said it seriously, the remark may be taken as a curious proof of his unconsciousness of the peculiarities of his delivery. For his oddities of utterance are no more English than they are Choctaw; sometimes they suggest Cornwall, sometimes Devonshire, occasionally Northern Vermont. But such hints are given by fits and starts ; the dialect is always substantially his own, an Irving patois, developed out of his own throat and brain through the operation of the familiar law of the survival of the unfittest. An alternate swallowing and double-edging of consonants, a constant lapse into an impure, nasal quality, an exclusion of nearly all chest tones, the misdelivery of the vowels by improper prolongation or equally improper abbreviation, an astonishing habit of confounding and confusing different vowel sounds, are the most marked of his disagreeable peculiarities. The great broad vowels are the ones which fare the worst in Mr. Irving’s mouth, and the reform of his delivery must therefore be regarded as hopeless ; an actor of middle age whose chief pronunciations of “ face ” are fāāāce and ēāāce, and of “ no ” are nâo and nawo, is past praying for in this regard. Yet it is a part, and an important part, of the duty of the stage to be a pronouncing dictionary of the language, to bear aloft the standard of correct and elegant speech, and to make a constant appeal to the public ear in behalf of pure and refined enunciation. This function of the stage is one which the unmitigated partisans of Mr. Irving regard with supremely contemptuous indifference. Indeed, they go much further, and, with more or less careless expressions of regret at his mannerisms, speak of his faults in this kind as superficial and unessential; of elocution as a matter of form, and not of substance. And they constantly inquire whether the spirit within the artist is not of more importance than the character of the tool with which he works. The inquiry is pertinent, the correct answer obvious, the figure employed a good one. An actor is like a painter, and the soul of the limner is of much more consequence than the shape of his implements. But if the artist has only a boot-brush and a pallette - knife to work with, his soul will find great difficulty in giving expression to its inspirations. Mr. Irving’s acting often reminds me of the work of such a painter. It is a perpetual annoyance to see how ill his hand and tongue subserve his purposes; how the poorness of his tools is shown in dull or ugly lines ; in other words, how his absurd enunciation disables and discredits his thought. It is necessary to go even further. Mr. Irving’s elocution is bad in other and perhaps more important ways than those already indicated : his voice possesses very little resonance, and almost no richness of tone; it is high-pitched, and has a very narrow range ; he seems absolutely incapable of sustained power and variety in speech, and the inevitable consequence is that his declamation, especially of long passages, is exceptionally weak and ineffectual. The trouble with the artist here lies in the want of something more important than a delicate brush ; he has no proper assortment of colors to choose from, — little more, indeed, than plain black and white, — and Mr. Irving’s work, under these conditions, when he aims at very strong effects, seems like the attempt of a painter in monochrome to reproduce the complicated beauty of a sublime scene in nature.

That the most conspicuous Englishspeaking actor of the day should be thus poorly equipped for his work may well be the subject of wonder to every thoughtful person. A scrutinizing glance at the man will furnish some new matter for wonder, but will also afford the beginning of an explanation of his remarkable hold upon the public. The tall, slender, flat-chested figure ; the high forehead, defined at its base by strongly marked yet exceedingly flexible eyebrows ; the large, positive nose ; the narrow, sensitive lips ; the long, thin jaw ; the large, deep-set, darkly-luminous eyes, belong to a most striking and impressive personality. Speaking for myself, I should say that Mr. Irving’s face is without exception the most fascinating I have ever seen upon the stage. Once beheld, it will not out of the memory ; and I find, upon sifting my recollections, that, when there is no deliberate effort of my will, his face appears to me, not under the distorting or glorifying transformations of the stage, but with its usual look of quiet and somewhat sad thoughtfulness. It is a countenance obviously not adapted for all parts, perhaps not appropriate for many ; but wherever it is seen it immediately constrains and inflexibly retains the attention of the spectator. There is no impropriety in saying that this peculiar charm seems to grow out of the nature of the man himself, — out of a rare and lofty refinement, a subtile and delicate intellectuality, a largeness and sweetness of nature. The quality of refinement, indeed, makes itself felt in everything which Mr. Irving does or says ; strongly appealing, I have observed, even to persons of no special cultivation ; marking the tone of his ordinary speech, whether the sound be agreeable to the ear or otherwise; never forsaking his delivery when his enunciation is most uncouth ; and clinging like a faint odor, in spite of all the artist’s fumigating processes, to such repulsive impersonations as his Dubosc and his Louis. For the purposes of the dramatic art, Mr. Irving’s face is found to be singularly well adapted, within the limits which will presently be shown, to the indication of fear, disgust, suspicion, malice, jealousy, superstition, and hatred, and to be incomparably well fitted for the expression of dignity, reserve, and melancholy. It is capable of gentle but not poignant pathos, of a certain sort of unmirthful intellectual mirth, and scarcely at all of heroic scorn, rage, frenzy, despair, or exaltation. Mr. Irving uses gesture very sparingly,—a fault, if it be a fault at all, which is near akin to a virtue, — and not in such a way as to contribute to the vivacity or significance of his text; a statement which at once demands qualification in favor of some half dozen bits of brilliant or beautiful illustrative gesture which I can recall, and nearly all of which are divided between Hamlet and Shylock. In the art of fencing, if one may judge by the duel of Hamlet with Laertes, Mr. Irving is a master; and the evidence given in that scene of the docility of the actor’s muscles as the result of his training is to be added to the mass of inconsistent testimony which makes Mr. Irving the least comprehensible of actors in respect to his professional furnishing.

The prime distinctions of Mr. Irving’s acting and the chief sources of its effectiveness and charm are its intensity, its artistic propriety, and its intellectuality ; all these being, of course, derived or reflected from the artist’s mind. By intensity I mean here that quality which results from the actor’s capacity of delivering himself and all his forces and faculties, without reservation, to the demands of the character which he assumes. The sum of Mr. Irving’s powers is much less than that of many other great players, but I have never seen an actor whose absorption in his work was so nearly complete and unintermitted as his. He never trifles, never forgets himself, never wearies, never relaxes the grip which he at once takes upon his part. It may be Hamlet or Mathias, Charles I. or Louis XI., Lesurques or Dubose: from the moment of Mr. Irving’s first appearance he gives up to its service u the execution of his wit, hands, heart.” That this intensity is accompanied by indications of self-consciousness in the actor, and that every such indication impairs the worth of his work, is true ; but the injury in this kind is much less than any one, upon a merely theoretic consideration of Mr. Irving’s art, would believe to be possible. His absolute sincerity of purpose is indeed the burdock which heals most of the wounds made by the nettle of self-consciousness. The dramatic consequence of such a high intensity is obviously great, but the value of the quality in holding the attention of audiences is inestimable. The spectator soon discovers that it will not do to skip any part of the performance ; that if he leaves Mr. Irving out of sight or out of mind for a single second he may lose some highly significant look or action. The impersonation of Mathias, in The Bells, best illustrates this, perhaps, although any one of his assumptions would serve almost equally well. There are but two prominent ideas in the part of Mathias: remorse for the commission of a murder, fear of detection and punishment. Through Mr. Irving’s utter self-surrender, these thoughts are present in every moment of his effort, each portion of which bears the same relation to the whole that a drop of water bears to a bucketful. Or, rather, the spirit of the character may be said to pervade the representation as the soul, according to certain metaphysicians, pervades the body, “ being all in the whole and all in every part.” So that it is not extravagant to say that the nervous apprehension of an undetected criminal is to be seen in every look, movement, and tone of Mr. Irving’s Mathias, from his entrance on the stage to the last instant of his death agony ; appearing as obviously to the view when he tenderly embraces his daughter as when, in talk, he nervously courses around his secret, or turns to a statue of anguish and terror at the imagined sound of the memoryhaunting bells.

Mr. Irving’s artistic sense is exceedingly just and delicate, and is an everpresent factor in his performance. In witnessing eight of his impersonations, I never saw it fail him, except occasionally in a presentation of Doricourt, in The Belle’s Stratagem, which was given at the close of a very fatiguing engagement. This faculty in Mr. Irving is pictorial, — nothing about him or his art being in any sense statuesque, — and makes him, with the help of his intensity, the most entirely picturesque actor of our time. Mademoiselle Bernhardt has a gift of like nature, but not equally high in quality or large in measure. In all his assumptions there is an abundance of delicate shading, of careful adjustment and contrast, of nice relation between parts ; no touch is made so much for its own sake as for its contribution to the general effect ; and though the inability to use grand and immediately effective strokes marks one of Mr, Irving’s peculiar limitations, the difference, in this respect, between his work and most of the popular performance, with its vulgar and violent sacrifice of the truth and beauty of nature to the frenzy for making points, is very striking, and altogether in his favor. In his finest efforts his skill in this kind is masterly, and fills the appreciative spectator with the liveliest pleasure. Among these, Louis XI. stands easily first, and Dubose, of The Lyons Mail, is second, with no long interval. A more thorough and complete embodiment of wickedness than the former impersonation — of cunning, cruelty, sensuality, treachery, cowardice, and envy, each vice being subordinate to a passionate superstition, which it feeds, and by which, again, it is fed — can hardly be conceived. Every utterance of the strident, nasal voice, with its snaps and snarls, its incisive tones of hatred, its hard notes of jealousy, its cold accents of suspicion, its brief touches of slimy sweetness when a saint is to be propitiated by devotion, or a foe is to be destroyed by flattery; every movement of the false, sneering, lustful lips ; every attitude of the feeble frame, which in the midst of its decrepit ugliness has instants of regal dignity ; every one of the countless expressions of the eyes and eyebrows, with their wonderful power of questioning, qualifying, searching, doubting, insinuating, and denying, — of all these and many more details in this marvelous picture, each one is absolutely true to life; each one has its own place and significance, and its own precise relation to the general effect; none is exaggerated or unduly intrusive. A finer, truer, and more artistic adaptation of means to ends than this has not been seen upon the stage within our time. Dubose is as depraved a character as Louis : but in the robber of the Lyons mail-coach reckless courage replaces timidity ; violence alone does the work which the king divides between it and chicane, and the element of superstition is wanting. The professional thief and murderer is of course less varied and interesting than the kingly member of his guild. But Mr. Irving’s portraiture of the former is of comparatively less dramatic worth for that reason, and no other. For Mr. Irving’s Dubose is perfect in its kind, and the contrasts between it and Louis serve to exemplify not only the keen discrimination of the actor, but the fine propriety and thoroughness of his artistic sense. The theme is low, but there is a high and legitimate æsthetic pleasure in the contemplation of such a creature as Dubose, when face, carriage, speech, and action, the very movement of the hands in the division of booty, the kick and sprawl of the legs in the recklessness of drunken joy, are but vivid tints in a picture of magnificently complete ruffianism. The personation of the king, in Mr. Wills’s tragedy of Charles I., also offers many fine illustrations of the same artistic quality in Mr. Irving, and I regret that I have no more space than will suffice for a mention of its melancholy beauty, its refinement, and the exquisite gentleness of manner which waits upon its regality of soul.

But the principal source of Mr. Irving’s professional power and success lies in the character and quality of his intellect. Many of our native players, both of tragedy and comedy, are persons of decided mental force; but Mr. Irving appears to me to demonstrate by his performances his right to the first place in the scale of pure intelligence, among all the actors of every nationality whom I have ever seen, Mr. Edwin Booth and Madame Ristori holding the positions next in honor. It is an old axiom of the dramatic art that temperament is of the first, second, and third consequence in the actor. Mr. Irving does not shake my faith in this truth, but I admit that his career goes far to show that, in exceptional cases, the intellect may successfully take upon itself a considerable part of the burden which is usually borne by other portions of the artistic nature. It makes, of course, the greatest difference what kind of a mind is in question, for much more than mere mental strength will be required. Mr. Irving’s intelligence seems to be of remarkable power, breadth, subtilty, and keenness ; it is morally supplemented by a fine patience and devoted persistence ; it includes a genuine inventive faculty ; it is enriched by careful cultivation. The highest dramatic temperaments conceive and represent character through the exercise of a reproductive and creative faculty which is like the poet’s. Similar results may be reached through the deliberate, cumulative work of the mind, which first analyzes the character, and then, piece by piece, fabricates an imitation ; and the mental gifts required for such a process of analysis and simulation are of a rare and varied sort. That there is an immense delight in encountering such an intelligence as this upon the stage, no one will deny. Its noblest and loftiest exercise must inevitably be had in the presentation of Shakespeare ; and here Mr. Irving’s work becomes, in every matter where pure intellect and refined scholarship can avail, a subject for the profoundest satisfaction. His skill in arranging the scenes and in cutting the dialogue is admirably good, and his reverent regard for the accepted text is scarcely less excellent than his brilliant ingenuity in varying the text of doubtful passages. In playing Hamlet, his mental power and learning have their highest exemplification. No character in Shakespeare, with the possible exceptions of King John and King Lear, asks, “ in the true performing of it,” such variety, penetration, subtilty, and sensitiveness of mind as the accomplished Prince of Denmark. Simply to understand his plainer speech is much, for Hamlet’s meaning does not often lie near the surface. But to follow all the twists and turns of his swift-pacing wit, even before it shows the disorder of real or pretended disease ; to feel, as the condition precedent of reproducing them, the contrasting glow and gloom of his wondrous imagination ; to justify his incoherence by exhibiting the missing links of thought which his indifference or ecstasy so often drops; to display the deep affectionateness which the keener intuition discovers under all his masks ; to show the superfine sanity which constantly characterizes his wildest utterances, and yet to indicate his dangerous nearness to that madness with which “great wit ever is allied;” and finally, to exhibit a character that, in spite of all the contradictions with which the master-poet has chosen to fill it, shall yet be human, lovable, and reasonably comprehensible, — these are tasks which require the most searching, refined, and patient intelligence ; and by their accomplishment Mr. Irving proves his mental quality beyond dispute, and his ability to grapple with any dramatic difficulty which a well-furnished brain can overcome. The artist’s intelligence, in this impersonation, constantly shines with electric clearness, and it seems to me that there is scarcely a sentence which does not receive a new illumination from his action or utterance. Even soliloquies, which of course suffer under his poor elocution, are thought out so lucidly and given with such care — though always as if the actor were thinking aloud, and not “ speaking a piece ” — that they often disclose new beauties and new meanings. Exquisite taste, as well as acumen, constantly appears in an unerring sense of the relation of each speech to every other, to every personage and the whole play, and in the subordination of his own part, when, as in the first long scene with the Ghost, a temporary effacemnent of himself is due to the artistic needs of the situation. The melancholy of the Prince is of a sort which Mr. Irving is singularly well fitted to reproduce, through the cast of his countenance, the quality of his voice in its low tones, and the bent of his temperament; and with Hamlet’s habits of introspection and metaphysical speculation the actor’s sympathy is most intimate and profound.

It must be remembered, as a practical qualification of all which has been said of Mr. Irving’s intensity, artistic perception, and mental force, that these noble qualities are sorely let and hindered, in their operation upon the stage, by the faults of style and method to which I have called attention, except only in the performance of parts like Louis and Dubose, where his eccentricities are as often helpful as hurtful. Yet I have meant it to appear that Mr. Irving, in spite of his faults, is, in my opinion, the most purely intellectual, the most picturesque, and perhaps, on the whole, the most interesting of modern English-speaking actors. The adjective “ interesting ” gives the cue for a plain statement of his peculiar limitations. I have never seen a performer that aspired to the name of tragedian who was so deficient as he in the higher emotional force and in sustained passionate power. Except in his gift of dealing with the supernatural, — by which, in Mathias, he makes a tremendous attack upon the nerves, and in Hamlet finely affects the imagination, — he is an extraordinarily light actor in so far as he appeals to the feelings. Many a poor player, who is immeasurably below him in refinement, taste, and learning, is his superior in this respect. The want from which the difficulty grows is deep-seated, and is, I am convinced, nothing else than a lack of that temperamental solidity and force out of which alone the actor’s most potent lightning can be forged. It is not necessary for the purposes of passion that this force should be accompanied with what Mr. Irving’s idolaters sneeringly denominate “ robustiousness.” The sinew and muscle — the brawn, if you please — of which I speak is in the will and heart and imagination, not in the arms and legs. If one seeks it in its grandest form to-day, it is to be found in Signor Salvini, who in intellect is but little inferior to Mr. Irving, and in artistic faculty is decidedly above him; but it filled the genius of the pigmy Edmund Kean, and it is abundant in our own slender Mr. Booth. It lies at the root of the ability both to conceive and to express the greatest human emotions ; it is the source of the pure, pathetic faculty; it is essential to a complete mastery of the spectator; it gives the eagle’s tireless wing to the actor’s impassioned speech. I have already alluded to Mr. Irving’s inability, through lack of elocutionary variety and strength, either to attain or to sustain the effects of noble declamation ; but his entire performance displays, through an unbroken series of phenomena, the want of that temperamental impetus of which his feeble speech and his monotonous repetition of the rhythmic nod of the head, the dull stamp of the foot, and the queer clutch of the breast in exacting passages are but single symptoms. Mr. Irving’s style has in no respect the sustained quality ; it is, so to speak, altogether staccato ; there are no sweeps or long strokes in it, but everything is accomplished by a series of light, disconnected touches or dabs, the total effect of which, when the subject is not too lofty, is agreeable and harmonious. As for his loftier-reaching passion, it has the flight, not of the storm-defying eagle, but of the shortwinged, often-resting domestic fowl. Mr. Irving’s selection of parts for performance in America affords a pretty sure indication of his consciousness of his limitations. But every one of the impersonations which he has given here furnishes evidence, directly and indirectly, of the truth of my thesis. The appeal which he makes is generally to the intellect or the artistic sense ; he goes higher only when he must, and then he almost always fails. Louis and Dubosc are “ character parts,” and are natural and proper subjects for picturesque treatment. But Mr. Irving does not attempt to make anything more of them, and their malevolent wickedness, which an actor of emotional genius might use to fill the spectator with loathing and abhorrence, is a purely æsthetic delight to the most sensitive observer of his interpretation. Charles I. is an exquisite portrait, painted with beautiful softness and tenderness of tints, and is mildly touching in its melancholy dignity ; but its opportunities for poignant pathos are neglected, or frittered away. In Shylock Mr. Irving makes his most conspicuous failure in this kind. There are some very strong points in his impersonation, and the outlines of the character are drawn with a firm and skillful hand ; but the stress of the Jew’s great passion is scarcely hinted at, except through the grim reserve of the latter half of the trial scene, and the explosions of his volcanic nature are accompanied by nothing more than a little noise and steam. Mr. Irving’s Hamlet is not far from being an exception to the rule which has been laid down ; but upon close scrutiny, I think it will not be found to weaken the force of what I have urged. It shows, indeed, the highest reach and amplest scope of the actor’s intelligence; but I venture to differ from Mr. Archer, the critic, by asserting that Hamlet is not essentially heroic, and, on the contrary, is a “ character part.” That Hamlet is eminently picturesque is obvious ; that he is not a character of sustained passion is equally obvious, inasmuch as infirmity of will is his chief moral trait. At all events, it is certain that Mr. Irving follows the lighter method in his impersonation, and that his success in it is won chiefly through the variety, vivacity, and delicacy with which he represents the picturesque side of the Prince’s nature. Upon a review of Mr. Irving’s efforts, it will even be seen, not only that he has no capacity for displaying vigorous, sustained passion, but that he never attains a lofty, emotional pitch, even for a moment. In all his performances, I can recall but one instance to the contrary, and that, as all my readers know, occurs just before the close of the “play scene ” in Hamlet, where his snaky wriggle towards the King, his scream of triumph and wrath, and his frenzied but regal action in mounting the throne and holding it, as if he had just dispossessed a usurper, always produce a strong thrill in the audience. The instance, however, is isolated, and it is curious to note that Mr. Irving accomplishes all the best of the effect of the scene without the help of any comprehensible speech. If further proof were wanting of the lightness of Mr. Irving’s emotional gift, it might be found in the uniform demeanor of his audiences; those of America repeating, according to my experience, the behavior of those of London, who, if Mr. Archer’s keen eyesight is to be trusted, are almost always “ intellectually interested, but not emotionally excited.” That Mr. Irving ever attempted Macbeth and Othello seems impossible; that he should ever presume to attempt King Lear is incredible.

My conclusions, then, are these : that Mr. Irving’s art would be much more effectual than it is if “ to do ” were one half “ as easy ” with him as his knowledge of “ what were good to do ” is clear ; that if abundance, brilliancy, clearness and refinement of thought, artistic insight, definiteness of purpose, sincerity of feeling, and intensity of devotion were all that is needed in a player, he would be easily first among the actors of our time ; that, since the highest end of acting is not to refresh and stimulate the mind, to refine and gratify the taste, or to charm the fancy, but strongly to move the spirit and profoundly to stir the heart, his claim to a place among the greatest masters of his craft is not as yet made out. After all is said, I find there is a certain charm in his performance which has not been accounted for, which defies analysis, and refuses even to be described, out which is strangely potent upon the imagination of the spectator. That his existence in the dramatic profession, even as he is, with all his imperfections on his head, is an inestimable boon to the stage of England and America seems to me quite clear, inasmuch as it is impossible that his peculiar faults should find many imitators. And, looking at Mr. Irving, the most advanced English student of the drama may find one obvious compensation for the absence of a conservatory like that of Paris, and of a theatre like the Francais : for in the destruction of his mannerisms, which must have made a part of Mr. Irving’s pupilage, the artist himself would surely have perished, as the heroine of Hawthorne’s most fanciful story died under the process of obliterating the birthmark from her cheek. To Mr. Irving’s marvelous skill in setting and adorning his stage, and in guiding his supporting performers, — a skill which seems to amount almost to genius, — I can make only this brief allusion. Our public are not likely to forget that they owe to him representations of Shakespeare which have done more to educate the community, and which have given, on the whole, more complete satisfaction and refined pleasure, than any others which the American stage has ever known.

Henry A. Clapp.