Born in Philadelphia, PA in September 1835, Rose Eytinge made her first appearance as an amateur actress in Brooklyn
The Memories of Rose Eytinge: Being Recollections & Observations of Men, Women, and Events, during Half a Century is the memoir of actress Rose Eytinge. Eytinge describes her start in the theater in Albany, NY and her work on the stage in Boston and New York City. She gives a personal account of her acquaintance with notable theater and literary figures including Pfaffians who gathered at the West 42nd Street Coterie in New York and at Bulfinch Place in Boston.
Eytinge claims that "every one who ever met Edwin Booth" could bear "testimony to his gentleness, his sweet temper, his unvarying, simple kindliness" (28).
Eytinge met Booth when she was acting in New York and he offered her the part of Fiordilisa in his production of "A Fool's Revenge" (28). She relates an incident during this production when she misread her character and created a costume that was too elaborate. Booth expressed dismay at her appearance but treated her kindly once he saw her embarrassment. He allowed her to wear the costume throughout the run of the production (29-30).
Eytinge describes her appearance on the stage with Booth a year or two later at Winter Garden Theatre in New York. She tells how he welcomed her interpretation of a supporting character's role in their production of "Richelieu" and changed his costume from courtier to acolyte accordingly (30-1). She also illustrates "the kindliness of Booth's nature and his some quaint sense of humour" in another anecdote from the production of "Richelieu". He removed "a smudge of black" from the end of her nose during their performance with the corner of the Cardinal's robe (31-2).
Several years later Booth again offered her work in one of his productions but Eytinge turned him down because she was playing a starring role elsewhere. She notes that she regrets missing this opportunity to work with Booth again (32).
Eytinge witnessed the effect that the crime of John Wilkes Booth had upon his brother. She describes how "shrinking and cowering under the weight of that great sin and shame, for which he was in no way responsible, but the consequences of which he suffered deeply and bitterly, withdrew himself from the world and avowed his determination never to appear in public again, and how it was only after a long time, and after not only his friends and admirers but the whole country clamoured for him, that he reconsidered that determination and consented to appear again upon the stage" (33). Eytinge also reveals that John Wilkes Booth's body was exhumed and moved to Baltimore at his mother's request (33). Eytinge claims that the Government moved the body "not so much out of sympathy for her, but as an expression of respect for her son Edwin, and of the faith which the nation had in him" (34).
Eytinge writes that "it is not possible to think of Edwin Booth without chastened sorrow and sympathy" and she points to his difficult life resulting from an unsettled childhood, his wife's premature death and his brother's crime (34). She also indicates that there were "domestic clouds which shadowed Edwin Booth's later years" but states that no one has the right to discuss them (34). She points out that he had compensation for a difficult life, however, because "Art, his mistress, always greeted him with smiles; the tragic muse, Melpomene, never turned away from him. She walked with him hand in hand through fields where lesser mortals could not follow, and with the wreath of willow that a sorrowful nation laid upon his grave there were also mingled the leaves of the laurel" (35).
Eytinge notes that Edwin Booth was one of many actors who could be met at Bulfinch Place, or "the actors' Mecca", in Boston when she visited there (57,60).
Mentions Henry Clapp as one of the "group of men and women, all of whom had distinguished themselves in various avenues, — in literature, art, music, drama, war, philanthropy" who met at Ada Clare's house on West 42nd Street in New York on Sunday evenings (21-22).
Describes Ada Clare as the "fairy-like, beautiful" queen of Bohemia (22).
"A veritable queen she was, receiving from her subjects their love and loyalty, which she won by her quiet sincerity and unpretentiousness, unconscious dignity, and drawing from each member of her court, by her gracious presence, all that was best in them of brilliancy, kindliness, courtesy, and wit" (22).
Refers to Augustin Daly as her "fast friend" for arranging the details of her voyage to Europe "in just twelve hours from the time I had settled to go" (95).
Describes how Daly, dramatic critic for the New York "Evening Express," took over the lease of the New York Theatre as his "third venture into theatrical business" (111).
Eytinge refers to conversations with Daly's mother in which she learned that "he had always been a manager" (112). As a child, he "would organise his comrades into a stock company and manage them. He never attempted to act himself, but . . . he cast his pieces and handled his company with the single-mindedness that characterised him afterward" (112).
Daly began his management of the New York Theatre with a production of "Griffith Gaunt" and Eytinge describes his difficulty finding the right actress to play the heroine Kate Peyton (112-3). Upon meeting Eytinge and discussing the story and the character with her, Daly, "with one of those gusts of sudden resolution to which he was addicted, . . . asked me if I would play the part" (113). Describing Daly as a "serious-eyed, intensely earnest young manager," Eytinge was impressed when he was able to convince Lester Wallack to add a provision to her contract that allowed her to act in "Griffith Gaunt" (113-4).
Eytinge reports a conflict with Daly during the first rehearsal for "Griffith Gaunt." As she rehearsed, he interrupted her with instructions and made her "nervous and uncertain in [her] work" (114). However, she also comments on how agreeable he was. When she "begged that he would allow me to struggle through the part uninterrupted . . . he promptly and amiably assented" (114-5).
Daly read his play "Under a Gaslight" to Eytinge and she agreed to play the part of Laura Courtland. She describes how "even then his artistic aspirations and longings were struggling for expression . . . everywhere there were evidences of his reaching out after a literary and artistic atmosphere" (115).
Daly is commended by Eytinge for the good acting companies he put together for his plays. She tells an anecdote about how he attempted to control joking among the actors by threatening to discharge them. Once he found that this tactic did not work, he "fairly and frankly gave up the fight" (117). Eytinge explains that this "magnanimous action of our young manager had the effect of making us all feel heartily ashamed of ourselves, and from that night, by unanimous decision, there was no more guying" (117).
Eytinge describes Daly and herself as "good comrades" (117). She often accompanied him to plays at several theaters in one evening so that he could review these performances in his role as theater critic (117). She also notes that Daly accompanied her to acting engagements in Newark and Washington as her producer (119).
Eytinge attributes her return to the stage in 1873 in part to Daly. She refers to him as one of America's leading managers. While Daly and Lester Wallack made her "tempting offers," she decided to work for Shook & Palmer upon the recommendation of Thurlow Weed (215).
Explaining her first ill-equipped venture into the business side of acting, Eytinge makes reference to Augustin Daly. She writes in appreciation of how he always took care of the business details when she worked with him and allowed her to focus on acting (241-2).
Eytinge made her first professional appearance as Melanie in "The Old Guard" in a dramatic stock company in Syracuse, NY at the age of seventeen. She soon became "the leading juvenile woman" in the company but quickly moved on to her second professional acting engagement as the leading lady at the Green Street Theatre in Albany, NY (Eytinge 8).
In addition to her role as leading lady, Eytinge also supported visiting actresses Charlotte Crampton and Ada Clare at the Green Street Theater (19). In her memoir, Eytinge describes the development of a rivalry and friendship with Clare when the other actress came to Albany. Warned by her fellow cast members that she "had better go at once and obtain a willow wreath to wear in place of the crown which [she] had just lost," Eytinge comments that she responded with "a saucy assumption of indifference" to Clare's arrival (20). However, Eytinge also claims that later she gave Clare "my warmest admiration, my love and allegiance" (21).
Eytinge moved to New York and made her first appearance on the stage there in 1862 at the Olympic Theatre. Her friendship with Ada Clare, who had also moved to New York, continued and Eytinge frequented the Sunday evening parties Clare threw at her house on West 42nd Street. Eytinge describes how at these parties there "could be found a group of men and women, all of whom had distinguished themselves in various avenues,--in literature, art, music, drama, war, philanthropy. The women were beautiful and brilliant, the men clever and distinguished" (21). Eytinge also remembers that the visitors to Clare's house included John Clancey, Stephen Fiske, William Winter and his wife Lizzie Campbell, Peter B. Sweeney, Mary Freeman Goldbeck, Fanny Brown, Walt Whitman, Henry Clapp, William Stuart, Ed H. House and others (21-2). She says of these gatherings, "This was Bohemia, and our fairy-like, beautiful young hostess was its queen. A veritable queen she was, receiving from her subjects their love and loyalty, which she won by her quiet sincere and unpretentious, unconscious dignity, and drawing from each member of her court, by her gracious presence, all that was best in them of brilliancy, kindliness, courtesy, and wit" (22).
Eytinge originally met Edwin Booth, brother of John Wilkes Booth, while working in Albany, but it was later in New York that he offered her the part of Fiordilisa in "A Fool's Revenge." She was impressed by "his gentleness, his sweet temper, his unvarying, simple kindliness" to her and felt great sympathy for his suffering after his brother assassinated President Lincoln (28). She illustrates her closeness to the Booth family when she writes that "the body of John Wilkes Booth was secretly exhumed, conveyed to Baltimore, and given to his mother" (33).
Eytinge eagerly accepted an offer by Edgar Davenport and John Wallack to join their acting company and tour the east coast from Maine to Washington, D.C. She referred to the decision to join their company as "the best day's work I ever did for myself" (45). During an acclaimed stint at the Washington Theatre in Washington, D.C., Eytinge met President Lincoln. After attending several performances at the theater, Lincoln invited Davenport and Wallack to the White House and they brought Eytinge along for the visit. Eytinge records the experience of meeting the president in her memoir by explaining, "I was presented to the President, he took my hand, and, holding it while he looked down upon me from his great height, said: 'So this is the little lady that all us folks in Washington like so much?' Then, with a portentous shake of his head, but with a twinkle in his eye, he continued, 'Don't you ever come 'round here, asking me to do some of those impossible things you women always ask for, for I would have to do it, and then I'd get into trouble'(76-7).
After touring with Davenport and Wallack's company, Eytinge took the role as the leading lady at Wallack's Theatre in New York from 1868-9. Here she commanded a "three figure salary" and "was the first leading woman in this country . . . on the English-speaking stage, who had ever commanded a three-figure salary" (40).
Eytinge left the stage in 1869 to travel abroad. She records her experiences in the Orient including her observations about the treatment of women there. She claims a new appreciation for the status of women in America as a result (150).
Eytinge states that she had no intention to return to the stage after her time abroad. At the request of Lester Wallack and Augustin Daly, however, Eytinge resumed acting upon her return to New York, performing the "best dramatic work" of her stage career in parts such as Lady Macbeth, Cleopatra, Hermione, Rose Michel, Gabrielle Le Brun, Felicia, and Miss Multon (215).
Eytinge traveled abroad again in 1880, this time to England. Upon her return to the United States in 1884, she embarked on a successful acting tour of the Western states, performing as the leading lady in California, Nevada and Utah theaters.
Eytinge ends her memoir by regretting the changes in her profession, especially the loss of "mystery" surrounding actresses. "It used to be the custom for an actress of any prominence," she explains, "to surround herself with an atmosphere of exclusiveness and mystery. She was never to be seen, as she may be constantly, to-day, upon the ordinary promenade, or at the theatre, or shopping, or at teas, or receptions. She was known personally only to a few intimate friends. The public never saw her, except upon the stage" (307).
Mentions Stephen Fiske as one of the "clever and distinguished" men who frequented Ada Clare's Sunday evening parties at her home on West 42nd Street in New York (21).
Describes Goldbeck as one of the "beautiful and brilliant" women who congregated at Ada Clare's home in New York City (22).
Mentions Heron as one of the actors Eytinge met at Bulfinch Place in Boston (60). Eytinge refers to this place as "the actors' Mecca" and says "only the elect were admitted there, and it would have been a serious mistake to have referred to it as a boarding-house" (57).
Refers to House as part of the Bohemian "group of men and women, all of whom had distinguished themselves in various avenues, — in literature, art, music, drama, war, philanthropy" who met at Ada Clare's house on West 42nd Street in New York on Sunday evenings (21-22).
Eytinge includes an anecdote about House's visit to the Boston Theatre during a production of "The Lady of the Lake" when he is drafted into writing lines to add to the play in order to move Roderick's body offstage. At first House refuses "pleading utter lack of preparation, and unfavourable conditions for wooing the Muse" (51). Yet he is "besought and bullied and urged, and finally was hustled into a little room on the stage, half dressing-room, half office, where, after having been provided with paper and pencil, the door was locked upon him . . . his release depended upon his production of the required lines" (51-2). Eytinge reports that "at last he complied with the rigorous demands of his captors" and he produced the following lines for the play: "Now hard by Coilantogle Ford / The chieftain's corse lies on the sward;/ It is not meet so great a foe / Untended by his clan should go. / Summon his henchmen tried and true, / To bear away brave Roderick Dhu" (52).
Etyinge describes a chance meeting with Menken at the shop of her French hairdresser, Gentil. Upon seeing "a swathed and betowelled form occupying the operating-chair," Etyinge turns to leave (310). She is stopped, however, by Menken who encourages her to stay. Awestruck, Eytinge reports that "never, either before or since, have I heard anything so perfect in sound as that voice. It transfixed me; it was like the softest, sweetest tones of an aeolian harp" (311). Eytinge ends her memoir with this anecdote about Menken.
Eytinge refers to the recent death of Mr. Newell and mentions his pseudonym "Orpheus C. Kerr." She states that his death "reminds me of the only time I ever saw – or, what is really of more worth, heard – Adah Isaacs Menken" (Newell's wife). She proceeds to relate an anecdote about meeting Menken at her hairdresser's shop (310).
Mentions that Smith, along with Lewis Baker, managed a small theatre on Broadway in New York and hired Eytinge to play Jeanie Deans in a production of "The Heart of Midlothian" (103). Mark Smith was the father of one of Eytinge's contemporaries in the theater, an actor also named Mark Smith.
Mentions Sothern as one of the actors Eytinge met at Bulfinch Place in Boston (60). She refers to this place as "the actors' Mecca" (57) and says that at supper "there was talk, — that sort of talk where every one who talked had something to say, a condition to which there are unfortunately many exceptions" (60).
Eytinge describes returning to New York to play the spring and summer seasons at Lester Wallack's Theatre (85).
When Eytinge's wish to play the part of Nancy Sykes in "Oliver Twist" at Wallack's Theatre is derided by her fellow actors, she appeals to Lester Wallack. At first, he reacts the same way. She says "he simply pooh-poohed my wish and also laughed me out of court" (86). He soon relented, however, on the condition that a one-act piece be added to the play so that the audience could see Eytinge as herself and "not take away with them the ghastly picture of Nancy in her death throes" (86).
After two successful seasons at Wallack's Theatre, Lester Wallack offers Eytinge the leading lady position for the upcoming season (88). Eytinge expresses appreciation for her time there stating, "What a school of acting was Wallack's Theatre!" (88) She goes on to praise Wallack and his theater for the "courtesy and kindness [that] ruled on both sides of the curtain. Everybody employed in the theatre, whether a principal or a call-boy, was treated with consideration" (89).
As a stage-manager, Lester Wallack ran rehearsals and Eytinge notes that although he "would occasionally 'let out' if some one or other were unusually stupid . . . the outburst was pretty sure to be followed by some little gracious act or word that effectively removed the sting" (89). She also comments that Lester Wallack had "an exquisite wit and a keen sense of humour" (89) and if an actor told him a funny story, "no matter how great your fault or how late you might be for rehearsal, you were safe" (90).
After the death of actress Mary Gannon, Lester Wallack asked Eytinge to play several of her parts, most notably Rosa Leigh in "Rosedale" (90).
Eytinge describes her desire to attend Charles Dickens' series of lectures in New York. Lester Wallack agrees to add a stipulation into her contract with the Theatre that would allow her to attend the four night series (90-1).
Eytinge explains that she left Wallack's Theatre to travel abroad to the Orient (93).
Eytinge describes how she takes two of her guests to Wallack's Theatre upon their request to see Lester Wallack and herself act. Wallack generously responded to their request "with that genial courtesy which was one of his many graceful qualities . . . by placing his own box at my friends' disposal, and the following evening they occupied it" (108). Eytinge goes on to describe how Wallack enjoyed her guests' enthusiasm for his portrayal of Young Marlowe in "She Stoops to Conquer" and "he played to them the whole evening in the most flagrant manner, and their admiration for him was something beautiful to see" (109).
When Augustin Daly wanted Eytinge to play the part of Kate Peyton in his production of "Griffith Gaunt" at the New York Theatre, he was able to convince Lester Wallack to add a provision to her contract that allowed her to do so (113).
Eytinge attributes her return to the stage in 1873 after being abroad in part to Lester Wallack. She refers to him as one of America's leading managers. While Lester Wallack and Augustin Daly made her "tempting offers," she decided to work for Shook & Palmer upon the recommendation of Thurlow Weed (215).
Eytinge tells an anecdote about Lester Wallack's purchase of the play "Blow for Blow" for production at his theatre in New York and how she and the other actors did not like the play (222). As Wallack attempted to direct rehearsals, Eytinge and the other actors would "sotto voce, interpolate between our lines divers remarks, editorial, critical, and slighting, regarding the play, and we enjoyed our own comedy much more than the author's" (222). Wallack's reaction to their levity, according to Eytinge, ranged from having difficulty "repressing his desire to laugh" and "join[ing] in our merriment" to "sternly rebuk[ing] us for this levity in business" and falling "into a positive rage" (223). After a week to ten days of such rehearsals, Eytinge explains, "Lester gave some order in a low tone to the call-boy, who went to each of us in turn, collected the parts, and laid them on the prompt-table. Lester, with great deliberation, made a neat parcel of the manuscript and parts, tied it up, and, putting it under his arm, lifted his hat, and bidding us a ceremonious good-morning marched off the stage and out of the theatre, leaving everybody present, but especially we three culprits, looking blankly at each other. We never heard of 'Blow for Blow' again" (223-224).
Eytinge mentions the gatherings at Ada Clare's house and identifies many of the members of this Bohemian group. She writes that at Clare's house on West 42nd Street "of a Sunday evening, could be found a group of men and women, all of whom had distinguished themselves in various avenues, — in literature, art, music, drama, war, philanthropy. The women were beautiful and and brilliant, the men clever and distinguished" (21).
She goes on to remember about this group that "of those who live in my memory are John Clancey, owner and editor of the "Leader," then a popular weekly paper; Stephen Fiske; William Winter and his wife, Lizzie Campbell, — then boy and girl, bridegroom and bride; Peter B. Sweeney; Mary Freeman Goldbeck; Fanny Brown; Walt Whitman; Henry Clapp; William Stuart; Ed H. House; and many others" (21-2).
She characterizes these unique gatherings and Ada Clare's role in them by explaining, "This was Bohemia, and our fairy-like, beautiful young hostess was its queen. A veritable queen she was, receiving from her subjects their love and loyalty, which she won by her quiet sincere and unpretentious, unconscious dignity, and drawing from each member of her court, by her gracious presence, all that was best in them of brilliancy, kindliness, courtesy, and wit" (22).
Whitman is identified by Eytinge as part of the group who met at Ada Clare's house on West 42nd Street on Sunday evenings. She characterizes these meetings with the phrase "this was Bohemia" (22).
Identified by Eytinge, along with his wife Lizzie Campbell, as part of the "group of men and women, all of whom had distinguished themselves in various avenues, — in literature, art, music, drama, war, philanthropy" who met at Ada Clare's house on West 42nd Street in New York on Sunday evenings (21-2). Eytinge describes Winter and Campbell as "then boy and girl, bridegroom and bride" (21-2).
Winter is mentioned as one of the people Eytinge met at Bulfinch Place, or "the actors' Mecca," in Boston (57, 60).
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