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A History of the New York Stage from the First Performance in 1732 to 1901

Brown, T. Allston. " 3 Vols." A History of the New York Stage from the First Performance in 1732 to 1901. New York: Dodd, Mead and Co., 1903.

People Mentioned in this Work

Booth, Edwin [pages:i.477]

Brown notes his 100-night run of Hamlet in 1864-1865.

Brougham, John [pages:i. 59,134,179,477,480,481,484, iii.320]

Brown notes his appearance as O'Callaghan in His Last Legs Oct. 4,1842, in which his wife (?) Emma Williams made her debut as Lady Teazle.

Brougham played both New York and Philadelphia in the same night. He was also the main attraction in the revival of Polkamania in 1844. Brougham may have appeared in F. (Fitz-James?) O'Brien's A Gentleman from Ireland on Dec.11, 1854.

Brougham was manager of the Bowery Theatre when it reopened June 30, 1856 (the theatre closed June 17th). Macbeth was playing with his company, Nov. 13,1856.

Clare, Ada [pages:i.481,484-485]

Brown records her first appearance on the public stage in the role of Julia in an amateur production of The Hunchback, Aug.15,1855.

Brown claims Clare was professionally known as Agnes Stanfield. Her real name is listed as Jane McEthenney (another spelling).

Brown also discusses Clare's role as "Queen of the Bohemenians" and her early literary pursuits.

Brown provides details about her encounter with a dog (that bit so deeply into the cartilage of Clare's nose that it had to be removed with assistance)that led to her contracting rabies. Brown notes Clare's seeming recovery and her performance in Rochester where she took ill on stage and had to be removed to her hotel. He describes her death as one of agonizing pain in which she asked to be killed.

Brown lists the date of Clare's marriage to J. Frank Noyes as Sept. 9,1868, and her death as March 4, 1871.

Ada Clare may have been the name of a character in Brougham's dramatization of Bleak House or she may have been a member of the cast; Brown is unclear about his point.

Clifton, Ada [pages:i. 196,324]
Jones, George [pages:i. 107-109]
Keene, Laura [pages:i.431-432,477,480,481, ii.143-145]

Keene was the lessee on Tripler Hall in 1855. She was mistreated by the press for her competitve run of Prince Charming. The scenery for this play was destroyed, but she directed anyway. The theater was soon after called "Laura Keene's Varieties."

Brown mentions Keene's sudden departure from the stage for her second marriage to John Lutz in California in 1853.

Brown claims that Keene lost her hold on the New York public 1863. Keene had no standing policy about what type of plays would be performed at her theater in 1860s. The affairs of the house seemed to be run haphazardly, yet the theater's record was remarkable during her management. Many who won lasting fame played under Keene's management. Laura Keene was determined to manage theaters in the manner of the English stage, running plays for weeks and possibly months. She was successful despite the criticisms of other American playhouse managers. Brown notes that there was a completeness in the detail of the scenery and costumes for her plays as a result of her efforts.

Keene acted in her company's performance of Our American Cousin the night of Lincoln's assasination.

Laura Keene died in Montclair, NJ, Nov. 4, 1873 at the age of 43. Brown includes a reprint of her obituary.

Menken, Adah [pages:i.334-335,515, ii.196]

Brown records her first New York appearance as occuring in June 1859 at the Chatham Theatre. He also notes that Menken's first engagement at the Old Bowery Theatre occurred March 19,1860.

Menken is described as a versatile actress, appearing to be a skilled and well-rounded performer in acting, singing, and dancing. Brown also discusses her intellect and literary achievements.

Brown mentions that Dumas was an admirer.

Brown discusses Menken's fatal illness - she thought she had inflammatory rhematism. Menken's death was attributed to an abcess in her side according to Brown's account. She died Aug. 10, 1868. She was buried in Paris and later moved to New York. Menken's headstone states that she was born in Louisiana.

Born in a suburb of New Orleans, Adah's given name was probably Adah Bertha Theodore, but conflicting accounts of her early years and parentage (many generated by herself for publicity purposes) make it difficult to say with certainty. (Fellow Pfaffian Augustine Daly claims that her true name was Adelaide McCord.) At various points, she gave her father's name as Josiah Campbell, James McCord, Richard Irving Spenser, and Ricardo Los Fiertes. This father, who is sometimes noted as a "free man of color," died when Adah was a baby, and her mother remarried. Her mother, speculated to be a native of Pensacola, was stated to be either Creole or Jewish of Franco-Spanish descent.

Adah began her acting career in Louisiana, touring the South and West in various roles, and her writing career with "Fugitive Pencillings" in the Texas Liberty Gazette and in the Cincinnati Israelite. In 1856 she married Alexander Isaacs Menken, son of a Cincinnati dry-goods merchant, but by 1859, at the time of her New York debut, she divorced him (or thought she had!) and married John Carmel Heenan, a prizefighter. The couple separated after a scandal in 1860 over whether she was actually divorced when she married him (G. Allen 262).

During this period, Menken frequented Pfaff's and met actress Ada Clare, poet Walt Whitman, and writer Fitz-James O'Brien. In 1862 she married Pfaffian Robert Henry Newell (Orpheus C. Kerr), but the union did not last. An article in Current Literature suggests that Kerr "unconsciously did the funniest thing of his life when he married the beautiful and seductive Adah Isaacs Menken, thinking that he could reform her. She proved false and faithless to him, as she had to half a dozen other men, but Kerr sincerely loved her, and the blow, which his own credulity brought him, was a cruel and lasting one" ("General Gossip" 479).

Menken did not let her romantic troubles keep her from working; her poems, later to appear as a collected edition, appeared singly in the New York Sunday Mercury and the Israelite. At Pfaff's, Menken may have met John Brougham as well; she later appeared in a short run of one of his plays, The Children of the Sun, which is said to have been written for her. Her acting took her on tours through upstate New York and the Midwestern United States. Her greatest success occurred at this point, when she starred in H. M. Milner's Mazeppa, based on Byron's poem. At the climactic moment she appeared on a horse, garbed so as to appear naked. The thronging public was appropriately shocked and titillated, and she toured the show in Europe as well.

In addition to the crowd at Pfaff's, Menken joined other literary and artistic circles as well. In San Francisco she performed at Tom Maguire's Opera House to a group including Mark Twain, Bret Harte, Artemus Ward, Joaquin Miller, and others who met in Joe Lawrence's Golden Era office. In London such men as Charles Dickens, Charles Reade, Charles Swinburne, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Edward Burne-Jones, and Charles Fechter were among her guests. In the meantime, she had divorced her next husband Robert Henry Newell and married James Barkley who did not accompany her when she left for France in 1866; there she gave birth to her son Louis Dudevant Victor Emanuel Barkley, whose godmother was George Sand.

During her time in France, Menken is rumored to have had affairs with Alexandre Dumas and Charles Swinburne, the latter of whom may have modeled his poem "Dolorida" on her (Gilliland). Menken died after suffering a collapse in Paris after rehearsals, just eight days before her collection of poems, Infelicia, which she dedicated to Charles Dickens, was published in 1868. Speculations on the cause of her death include tuberculosis, an abscess in the side, peritonitis, or cancer (T. A. Brown 335).

Following Menken's death, T. Alston Brown paid a final tribute to her: "Miss Menken possessed a character of mind peculiar from the many. She was a lady of extraordinary intellectual endowments and of high literary attainments. Her writings are redolent of bright and beautiful thoughts, and while very young she produced many poems and tales. It was the study of hr life to make all within the circle of her acquaintance happy and contented. In her habits she was social and genial, or an equable, amiable and pleasant disposition. Only those who knew her intimately could properly appreciate her noble qualities. Her memory will long be affectionately cherished by a large circle of sorrowing friends, who have known and fully appreciated her many excellent traits of character" (335).

O'Brien, Fitz-James [pages:i.484]

Possible author of A Gentleman from Ireland, performed Dec. 11, 1854, with J. Brougham in the cast.