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THE AMERICAN TRAGEDIAN.
WILLIAM ROUNSEVILLE ALGER.
"All the world's a stage,
HARVARD COLLEGE LIBRARY
FROM THE LIBRARY OF
DECEMBER 3, 1920
Copyright, 1877, by J. B. LIPPINCOTT & Co.
NEWSPAPER ESTIMATES.-ELEMENTS OF THE DRAMATIC ART, AND
ITS TRUE STANDARD OF CRITICISM.
The newspaper in some countries has been a crime and in others a luxury. In all civilized countries it has now become a necessity. With us it is a duty. It is often corrupted and degraded into a nuisance. It ought to be cleansed and exalted into a pure benefaction, a circulating medium of intelligence and good will alone. Certainly it is far from being that at the present time. It is true that our newspapers are an invaluable and indispensable protection against all other tyrannies and social abuses; and their fierce vanity, self-interest, and hostile watchfulness of one another keep their common arrogance and encroachments pretty well in check. If they were of one mind and interest we should be helplessly in their power. From the great evils which so seriously alloy the immense benefits of the press, Forrest suffered much in the latter half of his life. The abuse he met irritated his temper, and left a chronic resentment in his mind. Two specimens of this abuse will show something of the nettling wrongs he encountered.
A Philadelphia newspaper stigmatized him in the most offensive terms as a drunkard. Now it was a moral glory of Forrest that, despite the temptations to which his professional career exposed him, he was never intoxicated in his life. The newspaper in question, threatened with a libel suit, withdrew its words with an abject apology,-a poor satisfaction for the pain and injury it had inflicted.
The other instance was on occasion of the driving of Macready from the stage of the Astor Place Opera House. A New York newspaper, in language of studied insolence, called Forrest the instigator and author of the outrage. “Mr. Forrest succeeded last night in doing what even his bad acting and unmanly conduct never did before: he inflicted a thorough and lasting dis
grace upon the American character." "To revenge himself on Mr. Macready he packed the house and paid rowdies for driving decent people away.” “With his peculiar tastes he will probably enjoy the infamy and deem it a triumph.” Forrest, instead of cowhiding the writer of this atrocious slander,—as some men of his high-spirited nature would have done,-sent a letter, through his legal friend Theodore Sedgwick, demanding immediate retraction and apology. The editor assented to the request, confessing that he had spoken with no knowledge of facts to justify him!
From the time of his first appearance on the stage, Forrest was a careful reader of the criticisms on his performances. He generally read them, too, with a just mind, discriminating the valuable from the worthless, quick to adopt a useful hint, indignant or contemptuous towards unfairness and imbecility. There were three classes of persons whose comments on his performances gave him pleasure and instruction. He paid earnest attention to their remarks, and was always generous in expressing his sense of indebtedness to them.
The first class consisted of those who had a personal friendship for him, combined with a strong taste for the drama, and who studied and criticised his efforts in a sympathetic spirit for the purpose of encouraging him and aiding him to improve. Such men as Duane and Chandler and Swist in Philadelphia, Dawson in Cincinnati, Holley at Louisville, Canonge in New Orleans, Leggett and Lawson in New York, and Oakes in Boston, gave him the full benefit of their varied knowledge of human nature, literary art, and dramatic expression. Their censure was unhesitating, their questionings frank, their praise unstinted. Among these friendly critics the name of James Hunter, of Albany, one of the editors of “The Daily Advertiser,” in the important period of young Forrest's engagement there, deserves to be remembered. He was one of the best critics of that day. He used to sit close to the stage and watch the actor with the keenest scrutiny, not allowing the smallest particular to escape his notice. Then at the end of the play he would in a private interview submit to his protégé the results of his observation, carefully pointing out every fault and indicating the remedy. He lived to see the favorite, who profited so well from his instructions, reach the proudest pitch of success and fame. When Mr.