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leaves as they fell from the chestnuts around the Perkins Institution and the elms that darkened the sombre, deserted castle of Harris's Folly. With this sense of strangeness though, comes a sense still more striking and impressive of the turbulent, active, and brilliant period through which John Gilbert has lived. Byron had been dead but four years (1828] and Scott and Wordsworth were still writing when he began to act. Goethe was still living. The works of Thackeray and Dickens were yet to be created. Cooper, Irving, Bryant, Halleck, and Percival were the literary lords of that period. The star of Willis was ascending while those of Hawthorne and Poe were yet to rise; and the dramas of Talfourd, Knowles, and Bulwer were yet to be seen by him as fresh contributions to the literature of the stage. All these great names are written in the book of death. All that part of old Boston to which I have referred—the scene equally of Gilbert's birth and youth and first successes and of his tender retrospection-has been swept away or entirely changed. Gone is the old Federal Street Theatre. Gone that quaint English alley with the cosey tobacconist's shop which he used to frequent. Gone the hospitable Stackpole where many a time at the " latter end of a sea-coal fire” he heard the bell strike midnight from the spire of the Old South Church! But, though “ the spot where many times he triumphed is forgot”-his calm and gentle genius and his hale physique have endured in unabated vigor, so that he has charmed two generations of play-goers, still happily lives to charm men and women of to-day. Webster, Choate, Felton, Everett, Rantoul, Shaw, Bartlett, Lunt, Halleck, Starr King, Bartol, Kirk—these and many more, the old worthies of the bar, bench, and the pulpit in Boston's better days of intellect and taste :-all saw him as we see him in the silver-gray elegance and exquisite perfection with which he illustrates the comedies of England.
His career has impinged upon the five great cities of Boston, New Orleans, Philadelphia, London, and New York. ît touches at one extreme the ripe fame of Munden (who died in '32) and-freighted with all the rich traditions of the stage-it must needs at its other extreme transmit even into the next century the high mood, the scholar-like wit, and the pure style of the finest strain of acting that Time has bestowed upon civilized man. By what qualities it has been distinguished this brilliant assemblage is full well aware. The dignity which is its grandeur; the sincerity which is its truth; the thoroughness which is its massive substance; the sterling principle which is its force; the virtue which is its purity; the scholarship, mind, humor, taste, versatile aptitude of simulation, and beautiful grace of method, which are its so powerful and so delightful faculties and attributes, have all been brought home to your minds and hearts by the wealth and clear genius of the man himself!
I have often lingered in fancy upon the idea of that strange, diversified, wonderful procession-here the dazzling visage of Garrick, there the woful face of Mossop; here the glorious eyes of Kean; there the sparkling loveliness of an Abington or a Jordan—which moves through the chambers of the memory across almost any old and storied stage. The thought is endless in its suggestion, and fascinating in its charm. How often in the chimney-corner of life shall we-whose privilege it has been to rejoice in the works of this great comedian, and whose happiness it is to cluster around him to-night in love and admiration-conjure up and muse upon his stately figure as we have seen it in the group of Sir Peter and Sir Robert, of Jaques and Wolsey, and Elmore! The ruddy countenance, the twinkling gray eyes, the silver hair, the kind smile, the hearty voice, the old-time courtesy of manner-how tenderly will they be remembered! How dearly are they prized! Scholar!-Actor!—Gentleman! long may he be spared to dignify and adorn the stage-a soother of our cares, and comfort to our hearts—exemplar for our lives!—the Edelweiss of his age and of our affections! (Great applause.]
TRIBUTE TO LESTER WALLACK
[Speech of William Winter at a banquet of the Lotos Club, given to Lester Wallack, December 17, 1887. Whitelaw Reid, the President of the Club, occupied the chair. Mr. Winter was called upon to speak in behalf of the critics.)
MR. PRESIDENT AND GENTLEMEN:You have done me great honor in asking me to be present on this occasion, and you have conferred upon me a great privilege in permitting me to participate with you in this tribute of affection and admiration for John Lester Wallack, your distinguished and most deservedly honored guest and my personal friend these many, many years. (Cheers.)
I thank you for your thoughtful courtesy and for this distinguished mark of your favor. Being well aware of my defects both as a thinker and a speaker, I shrink from such emergencies as this, but having known him so long and having been in a professional way associated with so many of his labors and his triumphs, I should fail in duty if I were not at least to try to add my word of love, feeble and inadequate as it may be, to the noble volume of your sympathy and homage. Cheers.]
The presence of this brilliant assemblage, the eloquent words which have fallen from the lips of your honored president and the speeches of your orators, they signify some change—I will not say in regard to the advancement of the stage—but they signify a wonderful advancement in our times in sympathetic and thoughtful and just appreciation of the theatre. This was not always so. It is not very long since so wise and gentle a man as Charles Lamb expressed his mild astonishment that a person capable of committing to memory and reciting the language of Shakespeare could for that reason be supposed to possess a mind congenial with that of the poet. The scorn of Carlyle and the scarcely less injurious pity of Emerson for the actor are indications that in a time not remote, thought and philosophy have made but little account of the stage.
Something might be said about this by a voice more competent than mine, for in our time there has been a change in the intelligent spirit of the age, and I am sure that thought and philosophy now are of the opinion that the actor is an intellectual and spiritual force; that he is connected most intimately with the cause of public education; that he brings something of his own, and that, although the part provides the soul, it is the actor who must provide the body, and without the soul and the body, you could not have dramatic representations for the benefit of them. [Applause.]
I am not one of those writers who believe that it is the business of the newspaper to manage the theatres. The question of what to do to please the public taste, to provide mankind with what they like, or what they want, or, which is the same thing, with what they think they want, opens a very complex inquiry. Our dear friend has been puzzled by it himself more than a little. I should not undertake to instruct him, but as the observer of his course I have been struck by wonder and admiration of the way he has carried his theatre through seasons of great competition and great peril.
I call to mind one season, now seventeen years ago, I think, when in the course of a very few months, he produced and presented upward of thirty-two plays, showing the best points of these plays and showing his great company to every possible advantage; so have I seen a juggler toss fifty knives in the air and catch them without cutting his fingers.
[At the close of his speech Mr. Winter read the following poem.)
With a glimmer of plumes and a sparkle of lances,
With blare of the trumpets and neigh of the steed,
And the sweet summer wind ripples over the mead;
Smiling up to green boughs tossing wild in their glee,
While the Knights of the Mountain rode down to the sea.
One rode 'neath the banner whose face was the fairest,
Made royal with deeds that his manhood had done,
On his armor that splintered the shafts of the sun;
So moves o'er the waters the cygnet sedately,
So waits the strong eagle to mount on the wing,
So shines among princes the form of the King.
Smites crimson and gold on the snow of his crest,
While the banners of sunset stream red in the West;
The clouds hanging low and the winds making moan,
All proudly he rides down the valley alone.
White wings of renown be his comfort and light,
With the peace and the balm and the glory of night;
Where the years like a garland shall fall from his brow, May his glad heart exult in the tender devotion,
The love that encircles and hallows him now.