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TOPICS OF THE DAY., Issue 8030, 5 October 1889, Supplement
TOPICS OF THE DAY.
[From Our Special Correspondent.)
London, August 23.
A curious incident befell a friend of mine a London ‘ Star ’ reporter tho other evening. lie was ordered to attend a lecture given by tbe Rev, J. Belford Dax (a prominent Socialist) on ‘ Marriage,’ at a suburban hall, and took a seat amongst the audience. Next him eat a stout elderly lady with grey hair and an inscrutable expression of countenance, who seemed to follow Mr Dax’s observations with keen interest and attention. Ihe lecture was really nothing but an abuse of our marriage laws as at present constituted, and a panegyricon thepleasures of free love. It trenched on indelicacy in parts, and was altogether not a very pleasant discourse for ladies to listen to. When Mr Dax concluded, and before the general discussion on the paper began, there was a short interval, which tho * Star ’ reporter innocently took advantage of to gossip with his elderly neighbor. She spoke pleasantly enough about the lecture and about things in general, until the young man asked what she thought of the Maybrick case. Then, to his intense surprise, the lady almost snapped his head off, replying tartly “I never read poisoning cases ! ” and forthwith turned her back on him. Subsequently a Pressman who had been sitting at the reporters’ table said to my friend: “That was Mrs D next you.” “And who’s Mrs D ?” was the unenlightened reply. “ Mrs D ,” said the first speaker, “is the lady who, as Madeline Smith, was twenty years or more ago accused of poisoning her lover with arsenic. She got off because the man had treated her scandalously, and the general feeling was that ho richly deserved his fate, but that she was guilty of the crime no one (not even her own relations) doubted. As in tho case of Mrs Maybrick, a number of masculine sympathisers offered Miss Smith marriage, and she eventually selected Mr D , who is a Nonconformist and Socialist.
The working man who tendered himself to the Government as a vicarious sacrifice for Mrs Maybrick is quite a hero in his own town. The offer has, indeed, turned out most fortunately for him. There was quite a scramble for the honor of standing him unlimited pots of “four-’arf,” and whilst the excitement lasts the worthy creature can count on unlimited “booze ” gratis. On Saturday last Mr Matthews’s correspondence included hundreds of letters, and no fewer than fifteen thousand post-cards, containing suggestions on the Maybrick case.
The disgraceful attempts of the ‘ New York Herald’ to damage the character of Alice Yapp will lead, I hear, to a criminal libel case. The moat elaborate researches were made into the antecedents of the girl, which proved, however, provokingly respectable ; in fact, the sole semblance of a discovery which for a long time could bo used against her was the statement of a former mistress, who avowed that Yapp was quiet and a capital nurse, but she had “ never liked her.” On Monday, however, the ‘ Herald ’ came out with a flaring discovery of some “youthful indiscretion” .which poor Yapp had committed as a girl in Shropshire. It presently turned out, of course, that this was not our Yapp at all; but mud thrown thus recklessly generally sticks a bit, and I fully expect to find Yapp described as an “unfortunate” presently. For the autumn novelty at Drury Lane Gus Harris and Harry Hamilton have adopted the period of the Great Civil War, and dived into the romantic pages of the ‘ Boscobel Tracts.’ Worcester fight and the escape of Prince Charles from the victorious Roundheads will furnish the starting point 6f this Jacobite drama, for which over 500 different costumes have already been designed. The death of M. Damala (Sarah Bernhardt’s husband) from congestion of the brain, brought on by an overdose of morphine, deprives the French stage of a fairly respectable actor of romantic parts. He was far from being the histrionic equal of his famous wife, but she certainly materially inspired and improved him. Damala was one of the more serious of the amiable Sarah’s amatory freaks. Readers of stage gossip may remember how one April morning, seven years the erratic lady arrived in London from Madrid and went through the marriage service with the then irresistibly-handsome young Greek officer. The pair parted at the church door for some reason or another, and Sarah left London that night, but they were in each other’s arms again a month later. After that the Bernhardt and her spouse exhausted all the most interesting phases of passion together, finally quarrelling egregiously. Both thereupon took up new responsibilities, Sarah’s fancy fixing itself temporarily on a young and beautiful lad of nineteen. Whilst honored by the tragedy queen’s penchant this youth found it impossible to feign any very ardent love for the worn, excitable, hysterical Sarah. In despair she threw herself back into Damala’s arms, and they “ kissed again with tears.” Both, however, had had enough of passion, and it was their art that at last formed the true bend of union between them, Damala acted in London with Sarah as recently as three weeks back, but off the stage he was a wan, emaciated skeleton. One could not but reflect that worship at the shrine of emotional genius had cost him very dear. Seven years back, when Damala married la Bernhardt, the Greek had the physique of Phoebus Apollo. Sarah simply wore him out. She appears to bo as tough as fiddlestrings herself. The capacity lorfeelimi real passion has no doubt at length loft her, but she can still simulate it grandly, Probably she will marry again shortly. Damala’s last appearance on any stage was, like his first, as Armand Duval in ‘ La Dame aux Camelias ’ to la Bernhardt’s still matchless Margaret Gauthier, Sarah, after flirting with morphine (as she has flirted with so many sensations) herself, did her utmost to wean her husband from the demoralising drug; of course, however, fruitlessly. Besides, he also took quantities of cocaine and cognac. Congestion of the brain ultimately killed him. Mr W. A. Wills is going to dramatise ‘Esmond’ for the Vaudeville Company. The attempt may either prove a great success or an egregious failure. Odds are in favor of the latter, though the book is full of dramatic material and the period lends itself to picturesque effect. But Thackeray never has dramatised well.
James Albery, the dramatic author, who died on Friday last, was by no means an old man. Like most of the Bohemian set he burnt the candle fiercely at both ends, with the result that before ho reached forty ho was physically and intellectually worn out. About three years ago Albery became liable to intermittent fits of insanity, and since then ho has only been seen about very occasionally. As a dramatist the author of the ‘ Two Roses ’ was only partially successful, but as an adapter of risque French pieces (like ‘ Pink Dominos ’) to the English stage he seldom failed. ‘ Two Roses’ is undoubtedly a charming play, and will always be listened to with satisfaction ; but it owed its phenomenal triumph at the Vaudeville in a great measure to Irving’s Digby Grant, Montague’s Jack Wyatt, and Geo, Honey’s Our Mr Jenkins. When revived at the Criterion last year the pluy seemed a little old-fashioned and out of date. The last work poor Albery attempted was the freshening up of the dialogue of ‘ David Garrick,’ to which ho added at least one memorable line, The careers of the promising young actors and actresses who took part in the original performance of the ‘ Two Roses ’ proved not unlike Albery's own—partially abortive. The saddest fate of all was that of Amy Fawcett, the golden-haired fairy-like little butterfly, who touched all hearts by her sympathetic acting as Jack Wyatt’s childlove, Lottie. Miss Fawcett conceived a frantic passion for handsome Harry Montague, her stage sweetheart; and the nightly performance, which was comedy to him, became deathly real to her. Montague had always half a dozen attachments on hand, and made little ado about this one. The usual thing followed—jealousy and tears on one side, indifference and satiety on the other. Then poor Amy surrendered herself body and soul to the demon of drink and becameaveritable virago. She followed Montague to America when he went there, but growing coarse and bloated, could get no engagements, and eventually died a violent death in dire poverty. Montague was at this
time at San Francisco dying of consumption. He had, like Albery, burnt the candle too briskly at both ends, and was prematurely worn out at thirty. One of the many women who adored “handsome Harry” nursed him to the last, and the young actor’s funeral was attended by scores of weeping girls. The original Ida of the ‘Two Roses,’ Miss Adelaide Newton, also died young from consumption, and George Honey and W. H. Stephens have likewise sought “that bourne from which no traveller returns.” Irving we have still with us, and C. W. Garthorne (the original Caleb Deecie) is, I believe, somewhere abroad.
There are very few new books, but any number of new editions, published at this particular time of the year. The latter, of course, are for chiefly the benefit of the tribe of tourists and railway travellers, and consist in the main of hellee leltres. During the present week I note six-shilling reissues of ‘ The Awakening of Mary Fenwick,’ by Beatrice Whitby (the story of a matrimonial quarrel and misunderstanding commenced on the wedding day) and ‘ Mistress Beatrice Cope,’ by M. E. Le Clere, a tolerable romance of Jacobite times. There are also on the bookstalls two-shilling editions of Mrs Alexander’s ‘ Mona’s Choice,’ of B. L. Farjeon’a ‘ Miser Farebrother,’ of Gibbons’s ‘ The Dead Heart,’ of Philips’s ‘Little Mrs Murray,’ and of Hardy’s ‘ Far from tho Madding Crowd.’ The last-named is, in its way, almost as much of a classic as * Lorna Doone,’ and should on no account he overlooked by conscientious students of contemporary fiction. In the two-shilling form it will, I warrant, recall the scent of the English hayfields and the atmosphere of South Country rusticity to many ex-farm lads now sweltering under a semi-tropical sun in Australia.
Since “ Sister Dora ” took the reading world by storm there has been nothing published on tho prosaic subject of the sick poor quite so interesting as ‘ Recollections of a Nurse,’ by E.D. This E. D. appears to be a characteristic nurse of the present day, a follower in the right line of Florence Nightingale. She relates her experiences in simple, direct style, and they are often as enthralling as “Sister Dora’s.” E.D. spent some time at Hasclmere last year nursing the Laureate. He persuaded her to read him tho MS. she worked at through the nights, and, to please the old man, E.D. did so. Tennyson at once gave her an introduction to his publishers (Macmillans), and this little book (price 2s only) is the result.
Every ardent Home Ruler oan now possess himself for the modest sum of 2s with Sir Charles Russell’s great speech for the defence before the Parnell Commission. I cannot, however, honestly say the work sells very briskly. Miss Gertrude Warden, the author of the ‘ House on the Marsh * and numerous kindred works, was married last week to Mr Wilton Jones, a popular journalist in the North of London. Miss Warden, besides being a novelist, is a very capable actress and dramatist, and travelled the provinces for a couple of years with a stage version of the story which made her famous. The manuscripts of Disraeli’s ‘ Vivian Grey’ and ‘Captain Popanilla’s Voyage* were knocked down at Sotheby’s last week for L4O. At the same sale five of Burns’s poems in MS. fetched L 35 only. Tho sole new novel of tho week is ‘Diana,’ by Georgiana M. Craik, author of ‘A Daughter of the People,’ ‘Godfrey Helstone,’ and somo half-score mediocre works of fiction.
Walter Bcsant complains bitterly of a bundle of his private letters to an acquaintance being put up to auction at recent autograph sales. The man to whom they were addressed would, he says, never have countenanced such a breach of faith.
TOPICS OF THE DAY., Issue 8030, 5 October 1889, Supplement
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