Read CHAPTER VIII - THE VERDICT OF THE CRITICS of Mary Anderson, free online book, by J. M. Farrar, on

Quot homines, tot sententiae.

It may, perhaps, be interesting to record here some of the criticisms which have appeared in several of the leading London and provincial journals on Mary Anderson’s performances, and especially on her debut at the Lyceum. Such notices are forgotten almost as soon as read, and except for some biographical purpose like the present, lie buried in the files of a newspaper office. It is usual to intersperse them with the text; but for the purpose of more convenient reference they have been included in a separate chapter.

Standard, 3d September, 1883.

“The opening of the Lyceum on Saturday evening, was signalized by the assembly of a crowded and fashionable audience to witness the first appearance in this country of Miss Mary Anderson as Parthenia in Maria Lovell’s four-act play of ‘Ingomar.’ Though young in years, Miss Anderson is evidently a practiced actress. She knows the business of the stage perfectly, is learned in the art of making points, and, what is more, knows how to bide her opportunity. The wise discretion which imposes restraint upon the performer was somewhat too rigidly observed in the earlier scenes on Saturday night, the consequence being that in one of the most impressive passages of the not very inspired dialogue, the little distance between the sublime and the ridiculous was bridged by a voice from the gallery, which, adopting a tone, ejaculated ’A little louder, Mary.’ A less experienced artist might well have been taken aback by this sudden infraction of dramatic proprieties. Miss Anderson, however, did not loose her nerve, but simply took the hint in good part and acted upon it. There is very little reason to dwell at any length upon the piece. Miss Anderson will, doubtless, take a speedy opportunity of appearing in some other work in which her capacity as an actress can be better gauged than in Maria Lovell’s bit of tawdry sentiment. A real power of delineating passion was exhibited in the scene where Parthenia repulses the advances of her too venturesome admirer, and in this direction, to our minds, the best efforts of the lady tend. All we can do at present is to chronicle Miss Anderson’s complete success, the recalls being so numerous as to defy particularization.”

The Times, 3d September, 1883.

“Miss Mary Anderson, although but three or four and twenty, has for several years past occupied a leading position in the United States, and ranks as the highest of the American ‘stars,’ whose effulgence Mr. Abbey relies upon to attract the public at the Lyceum in Mr. Irving’s absence. Recommendations of this high order were more than sufficient to insure Miss Anderson a cordial reception. They were such as to dispose a sympathetic audience to make the most ample allowance for nervousness on the part of the debutante, and to distrust all impressions they might have of an unfavorable kind, or at least to grant the possession of a more complete knowledge of the lady’s attainments to those who had trumpeted her praise so loudly. That such should have been the mood of the house, was a circumstance not without its influence on the events of the evening. It was manifestly owing in some measure to the critical spirit being subordinated for the time being to the hospitable, that Miss Anderson was able to obtain all the outward and visible signs of a dramatic triumph in a rôle which intrinsically had little to commend it.... Usually it is the rude manliness, the uncouth virtues, the awkward and childlike submissiveness of that tamed Bull of Bashan [Ingomar] that absorbs the attention of a theatrical audience. On Saturday evening the center of interest was, of course, transferred to Parthenia. To the interpretation of this character Miss Anderson brings natural gifts of rare excellence, gifts of face and form and action, which suffice almost themselves to play the part; and the warmth of the applause which greeted her as she first tripped upon the stage expressed the admiration no less than the welcome of the house. Her severely simple robes of virgin white, worn with classic grace, revealed a figure as lissome and perfect of contour as a draped Venus of Thorwaldsen, her face seen under her mass of dark brown hair, negligently bound with a ribbon, was too mignonne, perhaps, to be classic, but looked pretty and girlish. A performance so graced could not fail to be pleasing. And yet it was impossible not to feel, as the play progressed, that to the fine embodiment of the romantic heroine, art was in some degree wanting. The beautiful Parthenia, like a soulless statue, pleased the eye, but left the heart untouched. It became evident that faults of training or, perhaps, of temperament, were to be set off against the actress’ unquestionable merits. The elegant artificiality of the American school, a tendency to pose and be self-conscious, to smirk even, if the word may be permitted, especially when advancing to the footlights to receive a full measure of applause, were fatal to such sentiment as even so stilted a play could be made to yield. It was but too evident that Parthenia was at all times more concerned with the fall of her drapery than with the effect of her speeches, and that gesture, action, intonation everything which constitutes a living individuality were in her case not so much the outcome of the feeling proper to the character, as the manifestation of diligent painstaking art which had not yet learnt to conceal itself. The gleam of the smallest spark of genius would have been a welcome relief to the monotony of talent.... It must not be forgotten, however, that a highly artificial play like ‘Ingomar’ is by no means a favorable medium for the display of an actress’ powers, though it may fairly indicate their nature. Before a definite rank can be assigned to her among English actresses, Miss Anderson must be seen in some of her other characters.”

Daily News, 3d September, 1883.

“It will be recollected that Mr. Irving, in his farewell speech at the Lyceum Theater, on the 28th of July, made a point of bespeaking a kindly welcome for Miss Mary Anderson on her appearance at his theater during his absence, as the actress he alluded to was a lady whose beauty and talent had made her the favorite of America, from Maine to California. It would not perhaps be unfair to attribute to this cordial introduction something of the special interest which was evidently aroused by Miss Anderson’s debut here on Saturday night. English playgoers recognize but vaguely the distinguishing characteristics of actors and actresses, whose fame has been won wholly by their performances on the other side of the Atlantic. It was therefore just as well that before Miss Anderson arrived some definite claim as to her pretensions should be authoritatively put forward. These would, it must be confessed, have been liable to misconception if they had been judged solely by her first performance on the London stage. ‘Ingomar’ is not a play, and Parthenia is certainly not a character, calculated to call forth the higher powers of an ambitious actress. As a matter of fact, Miss Anderson, who began her histrion career at an early age, and is even now of extremely youthful appearance, has had plenty of experience and success in roles of much more difficulty, and much wider possibilities. Her modest enterprise on Saturday night was quite as successful as could have been anticipated. There is not enough human reality about Parthenia to allow her representative to interest very deeply the sympathy of her hearers. There is not enough poetry in the drama to enable the actress to mar our imagination by calling her own into play. What Miss Anderson could achieve was this: she was able in the first place to prove, by the aid of the Massilian maiden’s becoming, yet exacting attire, that her personal advantages have been by no means overrated. Her features regular yet full of expression, her figure slight but not spare, the pose of her small and graceful head, all these, together with a girlish prettiness of manner, and a singularly refined bearing, are quite enough to account for at least one of the phases of Miss Anderson’s popularity. Her voice is not wanting in melody of a certain kind, though its tones lack variety. Her accent is slight, and seldom unpleasant. Of her elocution it is scarcely fair to judge until she has caught more accurately the pitch required for the theater. For the accomplishment of any great things Miss Anderson had not on Saturday night any opportunity, nor did her treatment of such mild pathos and passion as the character permitted impress us with the idea that her command of deep feeling is as yet matured. So far as it goes, however, her method is extremely winning, and her further efforts, especially in the direction of comedy and romantic drama, will be watched with interest, and may be anticipated with pleasure.”

Morning Post, 3rd September, 1883.


“This theater was reopened under the management of Mr. Henry Abbey on Saturday evening, when was revived Mrs. Lovell’s play called ‘Ingomar,’ a picturesque but somewhat ponderous work of German origin, first produced some thirty years ago at Drury Lane with Mr. James Anderson and Miss Vandenhoff as the principal personages. The interest centers not so much in the barbarian Ingomar as in his enchantress, Parthenia, of whom Miss Mary Anderson, an American artist of fine renown, proves a comely and efficient representative. In summing up the qualifications of an actress the Transatlantic critics never fail to take into account her personal charms a fascinating factor. Borne on the wings of an enthusiastic press, the fame of Miss Anderson’s loveliness had reached our shores long before her own arrival. The Britishers were prepared to see a very handsome lady, and they have not been disappointed. Miss Anderson’s beauty is of Grecian type, with a head of classic contour, finely chiseled features, and a tall statuesque figure, whose Hellenic expression a graceful costume of antique design sets off to the best advantage. You fancy that you have seen her before, and so perhaps you have upon the canvas of Angelica Kauffman. For the rest, Miss Anderson is very clever and highly accomplished. Her talents are brilliant and abundant, and they have been carefully cultivated to every perfection of art save one the concealment of it. She has grace, but it is studied, not negligent grace; her action is always picturesque and obviously premeditated; everything she says and does is impressive, but it speaks a foregone conclusion. Her acting is polished and in correct taste. What it wants is freshness, spontaneity, abandon. Among English artists of a bygone age her style might probably find a parallel in the stately elegance and artificial grandeur of the Kembles. It has nothing in common with the electric verve and romantic ardor of Edmund Kean. Of the feu sacre which irradiated Rachel and gives to Bernhardt splendor ineffable, Miss Anderson has not a spark. She is not inspired. Hers is a pure, bright, steady light; but it lacks mystic effulgence. It is not empyreal. It is not ’the light that never was on sea or land the consecration and the poet’s dream.’ It is not genius. It is talent. In a word, Miss Anderson is beautiful, winsome, gifted, and accomplished. To say this is to say much, and it fills to the brim the measure of legitimate praise. She is an eminently good, but not a great artist.”

Daily Telegraph, 3rd September, 1883.

“There was a natural desire to see, nay, rather let us say to welcome Miss Mary Anderson, who made her debut as Parthenia in ‘Ingomar’ on Saturday evening last. The fame of this actress had already preceded her. An enthusiastic climber up the rugged mountain paths of the art she had elected to serve ... an earnest volunteer in the almost forlorn cause of the poetical drama: a believer in the past, not merely because it is past, but because in it was embodied much of the beautiful and the hopeful that has been lost to us, Miss Mary Anderson was assured an honest greeting at a theater of cherished memories.... It has been said that the friends of Miss Anderson were very ill-advised to allow her to appear as Parthenia in the now almost-forgotten play of ‘Ingomar.’ We venture to differ entirely with this opinion. That the American actress interested, moved, and at times delighted her audience in a play supposed to be unfashionable and out of date, is, in truth, the best feather that can be placed in her cap.... There must clearly be something in an actress who cannot only hold her own as Parthenia, but in addition dissipate the dullness of ’Ingomar.’... And now comes the question, how far Miss Mary Anderson succeeded in a task that requires both artistic instinct and personal charm to carry it to a successful issue. The lady has been called classical, Greek, and so on, but is, in truth, a very modern reproduction of a classical type a Venus by Mr. Gibson, rather than a Venus by Milo; a classic draped figure of a Wedgwood plaque more than an echo from the Parthenon.... The actress has evidently been well taught, and is both an apt and clever pupil; she speaks clearly, enunciates well, occasionally conceals the art she has so closely studied, and is at times both tender and graceful.... Her one great fault is insincerity, or, in other words, inability thoroughly to grasp the sympathies of the thoughtful part of her audience. She is destitute of the supreme gift of sensibility that Talma considers essential, and Diderot maintains is detrimental to the highest acting. Diderot may be right, and Talma may be wrong, but we are convinced that the art Miss Anderson has practiced is, on the whole, barren and unpersuasive. She does not appear to feel the words she speaks, or to be deeply moved by the situations in which she is placed. She is forever acting thinking of her attitudes, posing very prettily, but still posing for all that.... She weeps, but there are no tears in her eyes; she murmurs her love verses with charming cadence, but there is no throb of heart in them.... These things, however, did not seem to affect her audience. They cheered her as if their hearts were really touched.... These, however, are but early impressions, and we shall be anxious to see her in still another delineation.”

Standard, 10th December, 1883.


“Miss Mary Anderson has won such favor from audiences at the Lyceum, that anything she did would attract interest and curiosity. Galatea, in Mr. W.S. Gilbert’s mythological comedy, ‘Pygmalion and Galatea,’ has, moreover, been spoken of as one of the actress’ chief successes, and a crowded house on Saturday evening was the result of the announcement of its revival. An ideal Galatea could scarcely be realized, for there should be in the triumph of the sculptor’s art, endowed by the gods with life, a supernatural grace and beauty. The singular picturesqueness of Miss Anderson’s poses and gestures, the consequences of careful study of the best sculpture, has been noted in all that she has done, and this quality fits her peculiarly for the part of the vivified statue. In this respect it is little to say that Galatea has never before been represented with so near an approach to perfection.”

Daily News, 10th December, 1883.

“The part of Galatea, in which Miss Anderson made her first appearance in England at the Lyceum Theater on Saturday evening, enables this delightful actress to exhibit in her fullest charms the exquisite grace of form and the simple elegance of gesture and movement by virtue of which she stands wholly without a rival on the stage. Whether in the alcove, where she is first discovered motionless upon the pedestal, or when miraculously endued with life, she moves, a beautiful yet discordant element in the Athenian sculptor’s household. The statuesque outline and the perfect harmony between the figure of the actress and her surroundings, were striking enough to draw more than once from the crowded theater, otherwise hushed and attentive, an audible expression of pleasure. Rarely, indeed, can an attempt to satisfy by actual bodily presentment the ideal of a poetical legend have approached so nearly to absolute perfection.”

The Morning Post, 10th December, 1883.

“‘Pygmalion and Galatea,’ a play in which Miss Mary Anderson is said to have scored her most generally accepted success in her own country, has now taken at the Lyceum the place of ‘The Lady of Lyons,’ a drama certainly not well fitted to the young actress’ capabilities. Mr. Gilbert’s well-known fairy comedy is in many respects exactly suited to the display of Miss Anderson’s special merits. Its heroine is a statue, and a very beautiful simulation of chiseled marble was sure to be achieved by a lady of Miss Anderson’s personal advantages, and of her approved skill in artistic posing. Moreover, the sub-acid spirit of the piece rarely allows its sentiment to go very deep, and it is in the expression perhaps, we should write the experience of really earnest emotion, that Miss Anderson’s chief deficiency lies. Galatea is moreover by no means the strongest acting part in the comedy, affording few of the opportunities for the exhibition of passion, which fall to the lot of the heart-broken and indignant wife, Cynisca. Although in 1871, on the original production of the play, Mrs. Kendall made much of Galatea’s womanly pathos, there is plenty of room for an effective rendering of the character, which deliberately hides the woman in the statue. Such a rendering is, as might have been expected, Miss Anderson’s. Even in her ingenious scenes of comedy with Leucippe and with Chrysos, there is no more dramatic vivacity than might be looked for in a temporarily animated block of stone. Her love for the sculptor who has given her vitality is perfectly cold in its purity. There is no spontaneity in the accents in which it is told, no amorous impulse to which it gives rise. This new Galatea, however, is fair to look upon so fair in her statuesque attitudes and her shapely presence, that the infatuation of the man who created her is readily understood. By the classic beauty of her features and the perfect molding of her figure she is enabled to give all possible credibility to the legend of her miraculous birth. Moreover, the refinement of her bearing and manner allows no jarring note to be struck, and although, when Galatea sadly returns to marble not a tear is shed by the spectator, it is felt that a plausible and consistent interpretation of the character has been given.”

The Times, 10th December, 1883.

“Mr. Gilbert’s play ‘Pygmalion and Galatea,’ is a perversion of Ovid’s fable of the Sculptor of Cyprus, the main interest of which upon the stage is derived from its cynical contrast between the innocence of the beautiful nymph of stone whom Pygmalion’s love endows with life, and the conventional prudishness of society. Obviously the purpose of such a travesty may be fulfilled without any call upon the deeper emotions upon the stress of passion, which springs from that ’knowledge of good and evil’ transmitted by Eve to all her daughters. It is sufficient that the living and breathing Galatea of the play should seem to embody the classic marble, that she should move about the stage with statuesque grace and that she should artlessly discuss the relations of the sexes in the language of double intent. Miss Anderson’s degree of talent, as shown in the impersonations she has already given us, and her command of classical pose, have already suggested this character as one for which she was eminently fitted. It was therefore no surprise to those who have been least disposed to admit this lady’s claim to greatness as an actress that her Galatea on Saturday night should have been an ideally beautiful and tolerably complete embodiment of the part. If the heart was not touched, as, indeed, in such a play it scarcely ought to be, the eye was enabled to repose upon the finest tableau vivant that the stage has ever seen. Upon the curtains of the alcove being withdrawn, where the statue still inanimate rests upon its pedestal, the admiration of the house was unbounded. Not only was the pose of the figure under the lime-light artistic in the highest sense, but the tresses and the drapery were most skillfully arranged to look like the work of the chisel. It is significant of the measure of Miss Anderson’s art, that in her animated moments subsequently she should not have excelled the plastic grace of this first picture. At the same time, to her credit it must be said, that she never fell much below it. Her movements on the stage, her management of her drapery, her attitudes were full of classic beauty. Actresses there have been who have given us much more than this statuesque posing, who have transformed Galatea into a woman of flesh and blood, animated by true womanly love for Pygmalion as the first man on whom her eyes alight. Sentiment of this kind, whether intended by the author or not, would scarcely harmonize with the satirical spirit of the play, and the innocent prattle which Miss Anderson gives us in place of it meets sufficiently well the requirements of the case dramatically, leaving the spectator free to derive pleasure from his sense of the beautiful, here so strikingly appealed to, from the occasionally audacious turns of the dialogue in relation to social questions, from the disconcerted airs of Pygmalion at the contemplation of his own handiwork, and from the real womanly jealousy of Cynisca.”

The Graphic, 14th December, 1883.

“Never, perhaps, have the playgoing public been so much at variance with the critics as in the case of the young American actress now performing at the Lyceum Theater. There is no denying the fact that Miss Anderson is, to use a popular expression, ‘the rage;’ but it is equally certain that she owes this position in very slight degree to the published accounts of her acting. From the first she has been received, with few exceptions, only in a coldly critical spirit; and yet her reputation has gone on gathering in strength till now, the Lyceum is crowded nightly with fashionable folk whose carriages block the way; and those who would secure places to witness her performances are met at the box offices with the information that all the seats have been taken long in advance. How are we to account for the fact that this young lady who came but the other day among us a stranger, even her name being scarcely known, and who still refrains from those ‘bold advertisements,’ which in the case of so many other managers and performers usurp the functions of the trumpet of fame, has made her way in a few short months only to the very highest place in the estimation of our play going public? We can see no possible explanation save the simple one that her acting affords pleasure in a high degree; for those who insinuate that her beauty alone is the attraction may easily be answered by reference to numerous actresses of unquestionable personal attractions who have failed to arouse anything approaching to the same degree of interest. As regards the unfavorable critics, we are inclined to think that they have been unable to shake off the associations of the essentially artificial characters Parthenia and Pauline in which Miss Anderson has unfortunately chosen to appear. Further complaints of artificiality and coldness have, it is true, been put forth a propos of her first appearance on Saturday evening in Mr. Gilbert’s beautiful mythological comedy of ‘Pygmalion and Galatea;’ but protests are beginning to appear in some quarters, and we are much mistaken if this graceful and accomplished actress is not destined yet to win the favor of her censors. The statuesque beauty of her appearance and the classic grace of all her movements and attitudes, as the Greek statue suddenly endowed with life, have received general recognition; but not less remarkable were the simplicity, the tenderness, and, on due occasion, the passionate impulse of her acting, though the impersonation is no doubt in the chastened classical vein. It is difficult to imagine how a realization of Mr. Gilbert’s conception could be made more perfect.”

The World, 12th December, 1883.

“The revival of ‘Pygmalion and Galatea’ at the Lyceum on Saturday last, with Miss Mary Anderson in the part of the animated statue, excited considerable interest and drew together a large and enthusiastic audience. Without attempting any comparison between Mrs. Kendal and the young American actress, it may at once be stated, that the latter gave an interesting and original rendering of Galatea. As the velvet curtain drawn aside disclosed the snowy statue on its pedestal, in a pose of classic beauty, it seemed hard to believe that such sculptural forms, the delicate features, the fine arms, the graceful figure, could be of any other material than marble. The gradual awakening to life, the joy and wonder of the bright young creature, to whom existence is still a mystery, were charmingly indicated; and when Miss Anderson stepped forward slowly in her soft clinging draperies, with her pretty brown hair lightly powdered, she satisfied the most fastidiously critical sense of beauty. Galatea, as Miss Anderson understands her, is statuesque; but Galatea is also a woman, perfect in the purity of ideal womanhood. The chief characteristics of her nature are innate modesty and refinement, which, though, perhaps, not strictly fashionable attributes, are appropriate enough in a daughter of the gods. When she loves, it is without any airs and graces. She has not an atom of self-consciousness; she cannot premeditate; she loves because she must, rather than because she will, because it is the condition of her life. Some of the naïve remarks she has to utter, might in clumsy lips seem coarse. Miss Anderson delivered them with consummate grace and innocence, but her fine smile, her bright sparkling eye, proved sufficiently, that the innocence was not stupidity. The first long speech at the conclusion of which she kneels to Pygmalion was beautifully rendered, and elicited a burst of applause, which was repeated at intervals throughout the evening. Her poses were always graceful, sometimes strikingly beautiful.

“Miss Anderson has the true sense of rhythm and the clearest enunciation; she has a deep and musical voice, which in moments of pathos thrills with a sweet and tender inflection. She has seized, in this instance, upon the touching rather than the harmonious side of Galatea, the pure and innocent girl who is not fit to live upon this world. She is only not human because she is superior to human folly; she cannot understand sin because it is so sweet; she asks to be taught a fault; but the womanly love and devotion, and unselfishness, are all there, writ in clear and uncompromising characters. The first and last acts were decidedly the best; in the latter especially Miss Anderson touched a true pathetic chord, and fairly elicited the pity and sympathy of the audience. With a gentle wonder and true dignity she meets the gradual dropping away of her illusion, the crumbling of her unreasoning faith, the cruel stings when her spiritual nature is misunderstood, and her actions misinterpreted. She is jarred by the rough contact of commonplace facts, and ruffled and wounded by the strange and cynical indifference to her sufferings of the man she loves. At last when she can bear no more, yet uncomplaining to the last, like a flower broken on its stem, shrinking and sensitive, she totters out with one loud cry of woe, the expression of her agony. Miss Anderson is a poet, she brings everything to the level of her own refined and artistic sensibility, and the result is that while she presents us with a picture of ideal womanhood, she must appeal of necessity rather to our imaginations than to our senses, and may by some persons be considered cold. Once or twice she dropped her voice so as to became almost inaudible, and occasionally forced her low tones more than was quite agreeable; but whether in speech, in gesture, or in delicate suggestive byplay, her performance is essentially finished. One or two little actions may be noted, such as the instinctive recoil of alarmed modesty when Pygmalion blames her for saying ‘things that others would reprove,’ or her expression of troubled wonder to find that it is ’possible to say one thing and mean another.’”

Daily Telegraph, 10th December, 1883.


“It is the fashion to judge of Miss Anderson outside her capacity and competency as an actress. Ungraciously enough she is regarded and reviewed as the thing of beauty that is a joy forever, and her infatuated admirers view her first as a picture, last as an artist. If, then, public taste was agitated by the Parthenia who lolled in her mother’s lap and twisted flower garlands at the feet of her noble savage Ingomar; if society fluttered with excitement at the sight of the faultless Pauline gazing into the fire on the eve of her ill-fated marriage, how much more jubilation there will be now that Miss Mary Anderson, a lovely woman in studied drapery, stands posed at once as a statue, and as a subject for the photographic pictures which will flood the town. Unquestionably Miss Anderson never looked so well as a statue, both lifeless and animated, never comported herself with such grace, never gave such a perfect embodiment of purity and innocence. In marble she was a statue motionless; in life she was a statue half warmed. There are those who believe, or who try to persuade themselves, that this is all Galatea has to do to appear behind a curtain as a ‘pose plastique,’ to make an excellent ’tableau vivant,’ and to wear Greek drapery, as if she had stepped down from a niche in the Acropolis. All this Miss Mary Anderson does to perfection. She is a living, breathing statue. A more beautiful object in its innocent severity the stage has seldom seen. But is this all that Galatea has to do? Those who have studied Mr. Gilbert’s poem will scarcely say so. Galatea descended from her pedestal has to become human, and has to reconcile her audience to the contradictory position of a woman, who, presumably innocent of the world and its ways, is unconsciously cynical and exquisitely pathetic. We grant that it is a most difficult part to play. Only an artist can give effect to the comedy, or touch the true chord of sentiment that underlies the idea of Galatea. But to make Galatea consistently inhuman, persistently frigid, and monotonously spiritual, is, if not absolutely incorrect, at least glaringly ineffective. If Galatea does not become a breathing, living woman when she descends from her pedestal, a woman capable of love, a woman with a foreshadowing of passion, a woman of tears and tenderness, then the play goes for nothing.... Miss Anderson reads Galatea in a severe fashion. She is a Galatea perfectly formed, whose heart has not yet been adjusted. She shrinks from humanity. She wants to be classical and severe, and her last cry to Pygmalion, instead of being the utterance of a tortured soul, is ‘monotonous and hollow as a ghost’s.’ It is with no desire to be discourteous that we venture any comparison between the Galatea of Miss Anderson and of Mrs. Kendal. The comparison should only be made on the point of reading. Yet surely there can be no doubt that Mrs. Kendal’s idea of Galatea, while appealing to the heart, is more dramatically effective. It illumines the poem.”

The Times, 28th January, 1884.


“Those who have suspected that Miss Mary Anderson was well advised in clinging to the artificial class of character hitherto associated with her engagement at the Lyceum characters, that is to say, making little call upon the emotional faculties of their exponent will not be disposed to modify their opinion from her ‘creation’ of the new part of distinctly higher scope in Mr. Gilbert’s one act drama, ‘Comedy and Tragedy,’ produced for the first time on Saturday night. Though passing in a single scene, this piece furnishes a more crucial test of Miss Anderson’s powers than any of her previous assumptions in this country. Unfortunately it also assigns limits to those powers which few actresses of the second or even third rank need despair of attaining. Such a piece as this, it will be seen, makes the highest demands upon an actress. Tenderly affectionate, and true with her husband, when she arranges with him the plan upon which so much depends: heartless and insouciante in manner while she receives her guests; affectedly gay and vivacious while her husband’s fate is trembling in the balance; deeply tragic in her anguish when her fortitude has broken down; and finally overcome with joy as her husband is restored to her arms; she has to pass and repass, without a pause, from one extreme of her art to the other. There is probably no actress but Sarah Bernhardt who could render all the various phases of this character as they should be rendered. There is only one phase of it that comes fairly within Miss Anderson’s grasp. Of vivacity there is not a spark in her nature; a heavy-footed impassiveness weighs upon all her efforts to be sprightly. The refinement, the subtlety, the animation, the ton, of an actress of the Comedie Francaise she does not so much as suggest. Womanly sympathy, tenderness, and trust, those qualities which constitute a far deeper and more abiding charm than statuesque beauty, are equally absent from an impersonation which in its earlier phases is almost distressingly labored. While the actress is entertaining her guests with improvised comedy, moreover, no undercurrent of emotion, no suggestion of suppressed anxiety is perceptible. It is not till this double rôle, which demands a degree of finesse evidently beyond Miss Anderson’s range, is exchanged for the unaffected expression of mental torture that the actress rises to the occasion, and here it is pleasing to record, she displayed on Saturday night an earnestness and an intensity which won her an ungrudging round of applause. Miss Anderson’s conception of the character is excellent, it is her powers of execution that are defective; and we do not omit from these the quality of her voice, which at times sinks into a hard and unsympathetic key.”

Morning Post, 28th January, 1884.

“A change effected in the programme at the Lyceum Theater on Saturday night makes Mr. Gilbert responsible for the whole entertainment of the evening. His fairy comedy of ‘Pygmalion and Galatea,’ is now supplemented by a new dramatic study in which, under the ambitious title ’Comedy and Tragedy,’ he has been at special pains to provide Miss Mary Anderson with an effective rôle. This popular young actress has every reason to congratulate herself upon the opportunity for distinction thus placed in her way, for Mr. Gilbert has accomplished his task in a thoroughly workmanlike manner. In the course of a single act he has demanded from the exponent of his principal character the most varied histrionic capabilities, for he has asked her to be by turns the consummate actress and the unsophisticated woman, the gracious hostess and the vindictive enemy, the humorous reciter and the tragedy queen. Nor has he done this merely by inventing plausible excuses for a succession of conscious assumptions, such as those of the entertainer who appears first in one guise and then in another, that he may exhibit his deft versatility. There is a genuine dramatic motive for the display by the heroine of ’Comedy and Tragedy’ of quickly changing emotions and accomplishments. She acts because circumstances really call upon her to act, and not because the showman pulls the strings of his puppet as the whim of the moment may suggest. The question is, how far Miss Anderson is able to realize for us the mental agony and the characteristic self-command of such a woman as Clarice in such a state as hers. The answer, as given on Saturday by a demonstrative audience, was wholly favorable; as it suggests itself to a calmer judgment the kindly verdict must be qualified by reservations many and serious. We may admit at once that Miss Anderson deserves all praise for her exhibition of earnest force, and for the nervous spirit with which she attacks her work. It is a pleasant surprise to see her depending upon something beyond her skill in the art of the tableau vivant. The ring of her deep voice may not always be melodious, but at any rate it is true, and the burst of passionate entreaty carries with it the genuine conviction of distress. What is missing is the distinction of bearing that should mark a leading member of the famous troupe of players, grace of movement as distinguished from grace of power, lightening of touch in Clarice’s comedy, and refinement of expression in her tragedy. At present the impersonation is rough and almost clumsy whilst, at times, the vigorous elocution almost descends to the level of ranting. Many of these faults may, however, have been due to Miss Anderson’s evident nervousness, and to the whirlwind of excitement in which she hurried through her task; and we shall be quite prepared to find her performance improve greatly under less trying conditions.”

The Scotsman, 28th April, 1884.

“Last night the young American actress, who has, during the past few months, acquired such great popularity in London, made her first appearance before an Edinburgh audience in the same character she chose for her Metropolitan debut that of Parthenia in ‘Ingomar.’ The piece itself is essentially old-fashioned. It is one of that category of ‘sentimental dramas’ which were in vogue thirty or forty years ago, but are not sufficiently complex in their intrigue, or subtle in their analysis of emotion, to suit the somewhat cloyed palates of the present generation of playgoers. Yet, through two or three among the long list of plays of this type, there runs like a vein of gold amid the dross, a noble and true idea that preserves them from the common fate, and one of these few pieces is ‘Ingomar.’ Its blank verse may be stilted, its action often forced and unreal; but the pictures it presents of a daughter’s devotion, a maiden’s purity, a brave man’s love and supreme self-sacrifice, are drawn with a breadth and a simplicity of outline that make them at once appreciable, and they are pictures upon which few people can help looking with pleasure and sympathy. We do not say that Miss Anderson could not possibly have chosen a better character in which to introduce herself to an Edinburgh audience; but certainly it would be difficult to conceive a more charming interpretation of Parthenia than she gave last night. To personal attractions of the highest order she adds a rich and musical voice, capable of a wide range of accent and inflection, a command of gesture which is abundantly varied, but always graceful and what is, perhaps, of more moment to the artist than all else an unmistakable capacity for grasping the essential significance of a character, and identifying herself thoroughly with it. Her delineation is not only exquisitely picturesque; it leaves behind the impression of a thoughtful conception wrought out with consistency, and developed with real dramatic power. The lighter phases of Parthenia’s nature were, as they should be, kept generally prominent, but when the demand came for stronger and tenser emotions the actress was always able to respond to it as for instance in Parthenia’s defiance of Ingomar, when his love finds its first uncouth utterance, in her bitter anguish when she thinks he has left her forever, and in her final avowal of love and devotion. These are the crucial points in the rendering of the part; and they were so played last night by Miss Anderson as to prove that she is equal to much more exacting roles. She was excellently supported by Mr. Barnes as Ingomar, and fairly well by the representatives of the numerous minor personages who contribute to the development of the story, without having individual interest of their own. Miss Anderson won an enthusiastic reception at the hands of a large and discriminating audience, being called before the curtain at the close of each act.”

Glasgow Evening Star, 6th May, 1884.


“No modern actress has created such a furore in this country as Miss Anderson. Coming to us from America with the reputation of being the foremost exponent of histrionic art in that country, it was but natural that her advent should be regarded with very critical eyes by many who thought that America claimed too much for their charming actress. Thus predisposed to find as many faults as possible in one who boldly challenged their verdict on her own merits alone, it is not surprising that Metropolitan critics were almost unanimous in their opinion that Miss Anderson, although a clever actress and a very beautiful woman, was not by any means a great artist. They did not hesitate to say, moreover, that much of her success as an actress was due to her physical grace and beauty. We have no hesitation in stating a directly contrary opinion.”

Glasgow Herald, 6th May, 1884.


“Since ‘Pygmalion and Galatea’ was produced at the Haymarket Theater, fully a dozen years ago, when the part of Galatea was created by Mrs. Kendal, quite a number of actresses have essayed the character. Most of them have succeeded in presenting a carefully thought-out and intelligently-executed picture; few have been able to realize in their intensity, and give adequate embodiment to, the dreamy utterances of the animated statue. It is a character which only consummate skill can appropriately represent. The play is indeed a cunningly-devised fable; but Galatea is the one central figure on which it hangs. Its humor and its satire are so exquisitely keen that they must needs be delicately wielded. That a statue should be vivified and endowed with speech and reason is a bold conception, and it requires no ordinary artist to depict the emotion of such a mythical being. For this duty Miss Anderson last night proved herself more than capable. Her interpretation of the part is essentially her own; it differs in some respects from previous representations of the character, and to none of them is it inferior. In her conception of the part, the importance of statuesque posing has been studied to the minutest detail, and in this respect art could not well be linked with greater natural advantages than are possessed by Miss Anderson. When, in the opening scene, the curtains of the recess in the sculptor’s studio were thrown back from the statue, a perfect wealth of art was displayed in its pose; it seemed indeed to be a realization of the author’s conception of a figure which all but breathes, yet still is only cold, dull stone. From beginning to end, Miss Anderson’s Galatea is a captivating study in the highest sphere of histrionic art. There is no part of it that can be singled out as better than another. It is a compact whole such as only few actresses may hope to equal.”

Dublin Evening Mail, 22d March, 1884.


“Notwithstanding all that photography has done for the last few weeks to familiarize Dublin with Miss Anderson’s counterfeit presentment, the original took the Gaiety audience last night by surprise. Her beauty outran expectation. It was, moreover, generally different from what the camera had suggested. It required an effort to recall in the brilliant, mobile, speaking countenance before us the classic regularity and harmony of the features which we had admired on cardboard. Brilliancy is the single word that best sums up the characteristics of Miss Anderson’s face, figure and movements on the stage. But it is a brilliancy that is altogether natural and spontaneous a natural gift, not acquisition; and it is a brilliancy which, while it is all alive with intelligence and sympathy, is instinct to the core with a virginal sweetness and purity. In ‘Ingomar’ the heroine comes very early and abruptly on the scene before the audience is interested in her arrival, or has, indeed, got rid of the garish realities of the street. But Miss Anderson’s appearance spoke for itself without any aid from the playwright. The house, after a moment’s hesitation, broke out into sudden and quickly-growing applause, which was evidently a tribute not to the artist, but to the woman. She understood this herself, and evidently enjoyed her triumph with a frank and girlish pleasure. She had conquered her audience before opening her lips. She is of rather tall stature, a figure slight but perfectly modeled, her well-shaped head dressed Greek fashion with the simple knot behind, her arms, which the Greek costume displayed to the shoulder, long, white, and of a roundness seldom attained so early in life, her walk and all her attitudes consummately graceful and expressive. A more general form of disparagement is that which pretends to account for all Miss Anderson’s popularity by her beauty. It is her beauty, these people say, not her acting, that draws the crowd. We suspect the fact to be that Miss Anderson’s uncommon beauty is rather a hindrance than a help to the perception of her real dramatic merits. People do not easily believe that one and the same person can be distinguished in the highest degree by different and independent excellences. They find it easier to make one of the excellences do duty for both. Miss Anderson, it may be admitted, is not a Sarah Bernhardt. At the same time we must observe that at twenty-three the incomparable Sarah was not the consummate artist that she is now, and has been for many years. We are not at all inclined to rank Miss Anderson as an actress at a lower level than the very high one of Miss Helen Faucit, of whose Antigone she reminded us in several passages last night. Miss Faucit was more statuesque in her poses, more classical, and, perhaps, touched occasionally a more profoundly pathetic chord. But the balance is redeemed by other qualities of Miss Anderson’s acting, quite apart from all consideration of personal beauty.

“‘Ingomar,’ it must be said, is a mere melodrama, and as such does not afford the highest test of an actor’s capacity. The wonder is that Miss Anderson makes so much of it. In her hands it was really a stirring and very effective play.”

Dublin Daily Express, 28th March, 1884.


“Nothing that the sculptor’s art could create could be more beautiful than the still figure of Galatea, in classic pose, with gracefully flowing robes, looking down from her pedestal on the hands that have given her form, and it is not too much to say that nothing could be added to render more perfect the illusion. The whole pose her aspect, the contour of her head, the exquisite turn of the stately throat, the faultless symmetry of shoulder and arms everything is in keeping with the realization of the most perfect, most beautiful, and most illusive figure that has ever been witnessed on the stage. Miss Anderson indeed is liberally endowed with physical charms, so fascinating that we can understand an audience finding it not a little difficult to refrain from giving the rein to enthusiasm in the presence of this fairest of Galateas. From these remarks, however, it is not intended to be inferred that the young American is merely a graceful creature with a ‘pretty face.’ Miss Anderson is unquestionably a fine actress, and the high position which she now deservedly occupies amongst her sister artists, we are inclined to think, has been gained perhaps less through her personal attractions than by the sterling characteristics of her art. Each of her scenes bears the stamp of intelligence of an uncommon order, and perhaps not the least remarkable feature in her portraiture of Galatea is that her effects, one and all, are produced without a suspicion of straining. Those who were present in the crowded theater last night, and saw the actress in the rôle said to be her finest had, we are sure, no room to qualify the high reputation which preceded the impersonation.”