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and English Library Associations, sup- Library Association has also recently plies equally striking evidence of library commenced the issue, through Messrs. enterprise. The Library Association of Trübner, of a monthly journal of prothe United Kingdom may have been in- ceedings which contains much additional spired by the American spirit of associ- information. Those who are unable to ated labor, but it has soon become a consult these more voluminous publicathoroughly British body. I doubt tions, but desire to know how a free whether any association could be named, public library is started, should procure which, in two short years, or, including Mr. W. E. Á. Axon's well-known little the preliminary conference of librarians, brochure, “Hints on the Formation of in three years,
has done more real and Small Libraries intended for Public useful work. The two Annual Reports, Use." This tract was prepared for the together with the Conference Report, Co-operative Congress of 1869, has been owe much to the editing which they have printed several times in a separate form received from Mr. Henry R. Tedder at home and abroad, and is to be found and Mr. Ernest Thomas. The indexes reprinted in Mr. Axon's “ Hand-book prepared by Mr. Tedder are models of of the Public Libraries of Manchester and the indexing art, and must almost satisfy Salford ” (pp. 183-9). More detailed the requirements of the Index Society. information, including the text of the These Reports, too, will probably be Free Libraries Acts, is to be found in sought after by bibliophiles on account Mr. J. D. Mullins' tract on “ Free of their beautiful typographical execu- Libraries and News-rooms ; their Fortion, due to Messrs. Whittingham & mation and Management, the third Co., of the Chiswick Press. A French edition of which was lately on sale by critic recently writing in Le Livre, the Messrs. Henry Sotheran & Co., at 36 French Bibliographical Journal, has Piccadilly. The standard work upon commented on the luxurious paper and the subject is, of course, Mr. Edward printing of these remarkable Reports. Edwards' “Memoirs of Libraries," But it is more pertinent to our immedi- published in two volumes in 1859, a ate purpose to observe that the Reports work which has been of great service in are full of all kinds of information bear- promoting the cause of the Libraries ing upon the advantages, purposes, and Acts.-Contemporary Review. management of public libraries. The
ON SOME OF SHAKESPEARE'S FEMALE CHARACTERS:
BY ONE. Who Has PERSONATED THEM.
up for my daily and nightly reveries, BRYNTYSILIO, NEAR LLANGOLLEN, North Desdemona filled a prominent place.
WALES, Ioth September, 1880. How could it be otherwise ? A being "My fair warrior.” “O, she was heavenly
so bright, so pure, so unselfish, genetrue !"
rous, courageous-so devoted in her
love, so unconquerable in her faith to Yes, my dear friend, I will try to her " kind lord,” even while dying by gratify your wish, that I should put be. his hand ; and all this beauty of body fore
you in words the Desdemona that and mind blasted by the machinations of was in my heart and mind in the days a soulless villain, who “out of her own when I was first called to embody her goodness” made the net that enmeshed upon the stage. It was among my ear- her too credulous husband, and her abliest esforts, and I was then a very young solutely guileless self ! girl ; but she had been long for me a The manner, too, of her death increature into whose life I had entered creased her hold upon my imagination. with a passionate sympathy, which I Owing, I suppose, to delicate health and cannot even now recall without emotion. the weak action of my heart, the fear of In the gallery of heroes and heroines being smothered haunted me continualwhich my young imagination had fitted ly. The very thought of being in a crowd, of any pressure near me, would the purest and noblest, and the attachfill me with terror. I would give up any ment and admiration of all. delight rather than face it.
Thus it was It was well for me that I never saw that, because of this favorite terror of Desdemona, or indeed any of Shakemy own, the manner of Desdemona's speare's heroines, on the stage, before I death had a fearful significance for me. had to impersonate them myself. I was That she should, in the midst of this thus hampered by no traditions, and my frightful death-agony, be able not only ideals were not interfered with by recolto forgive her torturer, but to keep her lections of what others had done. I love for him unchanged, was a height of struggled, as best I could, to give exnobleness surpassing that of all the pression to the characters, as I had knights and heroes I had ever read of. thought them out for myself, looking Hers, too, was "the pang without the only at the text, and ignoring all compalm." Juliet, Cordelia, Imogen, Hermi- mentators and critics, for they perplexed one, sufferers as they were, had no such but did not help me. Crude and impersuffering as this. For hers was the fect as my conceptions were
- and no supreme anguish of dying, while the one one found this out sooner than myself, in whose regard she desired to stand as time and experience widened themhighest believed her tainted and impure! yet they seemed to make themselves felt To a loving, noble woman, what fate by my audiences, who, to my surprise could be more terrible than this !
and delight, were always most kind and Of course I did not know in those indulgent to me. days that Desdemona is usually consid- Very often I meet people now who ered a merely amiable, simple, yielding tell me they saw my first performances, creature, and is also generally so repre- and speak of them as though they were sented on the stage.
This is the last great things. (You ask me to talk of idea that would have entered my mind. myself, so you see I do.) They were To me she was in all things worthy to better satisfied than I was, because I be a hero's bride, and deserving the knew that I could do far better with enhighest love, reverence, and gratitude couragement and practice. from the noble Moor. Gentle'' she But ah, how my heart ached when the was, no doubt (the strong are naturally critics flung great naines at me. A Sidgentle)—and Othello in one place calls dons, an O'Neill-what could I know of her so.
But he uses the epithet in the them? How they thought about my Italian and old English sense, implying heroines—for they were mine, a part of that union of nobility of person and of me I could not tell. Did they look at disposition which speaks in an uncon- them with the same eyes, think the same scious grace of movement and of out- thoughts about them, as I did ? No one ward look. This was what I imagine could tell me that. I was only told with was in Wordsworth's mind when speak- what. grand effect one spoke certain ing of “the gentle lady married to the lines, how another looked and sobbed Moor ;'' and when he discoursed on that and fainted in a certain situation. Forfavorite theme, on which, he says, tunately for me, the critics then, as now, " right voluble I am," I can fancy that did not all agree. I was not allowed to he drew his heroine in much the same see newspapers ; but somehow unkind lines as those in which she presented criticisms are sure to find their way herself to my young imagination. I through one channel or another, and to cannot think he would have singled her make their barb felt. A critic, to do out in his famous sonnet as he does, had good, and give a lesson worth learning, he not thought her as brave as she was should find out first what is good-for generous, as high of heart as she was no work worth speaking of at all can be sweet of nature, or had he regarded her without some good-and then the faults as a soft, insipid, plastic creature, ready can be told and listened to in a proper to do any one's bidding, and take placid- and patient spirit. ly any ill-usage from mere weakness and Happily, however, I found not a few general characterless docility. Oh no! who did not daunt me with tales of my Such creatures do not win the love of predecessors, but encouraged me to persevere in my own course, to trust to my wholly unfitted to bring out, or even to own conceptions, and to believe that understand, Mr. Browning's meaning. these would work out a more adequate Consequently, the delicate subtle lines expression as I gained a greater mastery were twisted, perverted, and sometimes of my art. Among such, my Desde- even made ridiculous in his hands. My mona was peculiarly welcomed as rescu- “cruel father” was a warm admirer of ing the character, as I was told, out of the poet. He sat writhing and indigthe commonplace, and lifting her into nant, and tried by gentle asides to make her true position in the tragedy. This me see the real meaning of the verse. view was especially pressed upon me by But somehow the mischief proved irreMr. Elton, the gentleman who acted parable, for a few of the actors during Brabantioan excellent actor in Mr. the rehearsals chose to continue to inisMacready's picked company, who, alas ! understand the text, and never took the was drowned in a shipwreck a year or interest in the play which they must have two later. He told me that my Desde- done had Mr. Macready read it-for he mona was a new creation for him ; that, had great power as a reader. I always to use his own phrase—and I remember thought it was chiefly because of this it well-it restored the balance of the contretemps that a play, so thoroug play by giving her character its due dramatic, failed, despite its painful weight in the action, and thus for the story, to make the great success which first time was the chiaroscuro of the was justly its due. tragedy, as he said, seen by him. Words Kind Mr. Elton ! In those cold, no less encouraging fell from Mr. Mac- cheerless, wintry days, his salutation ready, my Othello.
He told me my
was always the same : Well, how does brightness and gaiety in the happy early Spring Morning ?" And if my eyes and scenes at Cyprus helped him greatly, heart were heavy from having heard my and that, when sadder, I was not lachry- faults too harshly censured, he would mose ; and, above all, that I added in- say-noticing, I suppose, my depressed tensity to the last act by“ being so diffi- manner—“So April showers have been cult to kill.". Indeed, I felt that last falling !" When I asked him to watch scene as if it were a very struggle for and check my faults, he positively remy own life.
I would not die with my fused, saying, “I heard already too honor tarnished, without the chance of much of them. I must remember I was disabusing my husband's mind of the passing through my novitiate--not, like vile thoughts that tore it. I felt for him most others, before a provincial, but beas well as for myself, for I knew what fore a London audience, and that I must remorse and misery would overwhelm expect to have much to learn. But if I him when he should come to know how kept always thinking of myself and my cruelly he had wronged me; and there shortcomings, I should spoil my style, fore I threw into my remonstrance all the charm of which was my self-forgetthe powers of passionate appeal that I fulness and power of identifying myself could command.
with the character I was acting. How I recall with gratitude the comfort and was I to be a real Juliet or Desdemona instruction for which I was indebted to if I had my defects uppermost in my my good friend Brabantio--my "cruel mind? I must trust to their falling father," as I used to call him.
away from me by practice in my art. the kindest and gentlest of men ;
He was the more tender, I can now see, thoroughly well read, of fine tastes, and partly in consequence of my extreine an accomplished rather than a powerful sensitiveness and my dissatisfaction with actor. It seems but yesterday that I sat my own efforts, and partly from seeing by his side in the green-room at the too strong a disposition in Mr. Macready reading of Robert Browning's beautiful to take exception to everything I did drama, The Blot in the Scutcheon.” which was not exactly in accordance As a rule, Mr. Macready always read with his own notions. “My dear, you the new plays. But owing, I suppose, are entirely wrong in this conception, to some press of business, the task was was a phrase constantly in his mouth. intrusted on this occasion to the head The young girl was expected to take the prompter-a clever man in his way, but same view as the ripe artist, who had
had great experience, no doubt, but who best of all, bidding me get well soon, as had also confirmed habits, and whose I was greatly asked for and missed, and strong masculine mind had in it but lit. he could not revive or bring forward tle of the feminine element. I believed certain plays without my help. This in him, and could not act by his side was my only drop of comfort ; for, dewithout being moved and influenced by spite the love and care of a dear friend his intense earnestness and power. I who left her home to tend and watch tried hard to do what he advised-too over me, it was a weary time this banishmuch so; for, perhaps you remember, I ment—this separation from the art which was accused of having caught his manner was all in all to me ; for from it I had and expression. It was almost impossi- derived almost my only happiness in a ble to do otherwise, considering the hitherto lonely, little-cared-for life. I many hours one had to pass under his could not but see, too, that my friends direction. Rehearsals began at ten in did not expect I should grow better. I the morning, and usually went on until do not think I very much cared. By three or four. In the revival of an old, the very young I believe life is not highor the bringing out of a new play, these ly prized. But oh, the inaction, the en: rehearsals were continued daily for three forced care and thought for myself, the weeks at least, sometimes four or five. wearing cough by night, the sameness
Still, unflinching disciplinarian as he of the dreary days ! Had my life not was, Mr. Macready was not always been just before so different, so full of stern. He could joke, and had “ pretty work, of imaginative excitement, doubtthings to say" upon occasion. I always less my spirits would not have sunk so did my best to be punctual ; but I had low. But happily, the dreary winter to drive three miles to the theatre-a and trying spring gave way at last to distance which, if I had acted the previ- summer : summer and youth triumphed ous night, I found rather trying in the over my illness, and before another winearly winter mornings. I remember ter I was well again. well one morning when I was a little I have wandered far from my text. late, I found that I had been already "Old memories, they cling, they cling !"
called " for the stage. On reaching But as my thoughts travel back to these it, I made my apologies, but said that if well-remembered days, and the they looked at the time they would find
Manche liebe Schatten steigen auf," I was but ten minutes after the hour, and I understood that ten minutes' grace of which Goethe speaks, my pen runs on was always given. “Ah," said Mr. with a freedom which I feel sure your Macready, turning gravely to me, “not friendship will forgive. You see, with to you! We all agree that you do not encouragement, how conceited and require it : you have enough already." self-imbued ” I can become. In the general laugh I was of course Now let me go back to Desdemona, as forgiven. Then with all his sternness, I dreamed of her in those days, and as how tender-hearted he was when illness I think of her still. As in the case of was present! All knew, that for the Ophelia and Portia, so her mother has great exertion of the lungs in this my obviously been long dead before Shakefirst girlhood nature revenged herself by speare takes up the story. Desdemona inflicting on me a cough which harassed only once alludes to her mother, and and distressed me night and day. that is in her hour of deepest bewilderOften, often has Mr. Macready said to ment and sorrow; then she simply says, me, “My poor child, your cough goes “My mother had a maid called Barto my heart.
How I wish I could spare bara, " whose lover had“ proved mad,
And when at last, after my and did forsake her.” Like Portia, she third winter, I had to give up and go to was a noble Venetian lady, but there a milder climate for a year, he never was a whole world of difference between omitted writing to me every week, ad. their homes and their bringing up. vising me what books to read, and en- proud indulgent father watched the train. couraging and expecting me to write and ing of Desdemona's youth, and studied give him my criticisms upon them; the progress of her heart and mind. sending me news of the theatre ; and,
the theatre ; and, Absorbed in state affairs, he seems to
have been at no pains to read his daugh- shoulders from Othello's the blame, of ter's nature, to engage her affections or her abduction. her confidence. Thus, a creature, lov
“ That I did love the Moor to live with him, ing, generous, imaginative, was thrown
My downright violence and storm of forback upon herself, and left to dream over characters more noble, and lives May trumpet to the world ; more checkered with adventure, than
And to his honors, and his valiant parts, those she was in the habit of seeing in
Did I my soul and fortunes consecrate." her father's luxurious home. Making so small a part of her father's life, and Of her father she says he " is the lord missing the love, or the display of it, of duty.” To him she is bound for which would have been so precious to “ life and education ;" these teach her her, she finds her happiness in dreams “how to respect him.' Just as he has of worth more exalted than any she has not asked, so not a word does she say seen,' but which she has heard and read about love and affection towards him. of in the poets and romancers of her own He is silenced. She owns freely all she and other times. Supreme mistress of owes him for “life and education." her father's house, she receives his Up to the time of her marriage he is guests, dispenses his hospitalities; and, first ; she owes and pays him all obeexcept that she has never felt the assur- dience, all respect. ance of that father's love, she yet hath
“But here's my husband ; felt no age nor known no sorrow," and
And so much duty as my mother show'd is “ a child to chiding.'
To you, preferring you before her father, Her father finds her obedient to his So much I challenge that I may profess
Due to the Moor, my lord.” every wish, a most diligent mistress of his house affairs" a maiden never
From all we see of Desdemona's readibold ;'' of “spirit still and quiet." He never thinks of the depths that may lie her of love and service, even to those
ness to give more than is expected from under this unruffled surface-not only who had much slighter claims upon her, hidden from his sight, but unknown to I cannot think she would have been his child herself. He has found her
wanting in these to her father, had he " opposite to marriage" with the "curled darlings” of Venice, who had strations of affection.
not chilled her girlhood's natural demon
There is a kind solicited her. As these have never moved her quiet, her love for what he which, even while loving dearly, will yet
of proud frowardness in some natures imagines she feared to look on is, to his hold aloof from, keep at a distance, the thinking, “ against all rules of nature,
objects of their love. They claim as a and could only be brought about “ by right that which will not grow without spells and medicines bought of mounte
some care and fostering, some responThe enchantment, the witch- sive look, some tender words. craft with which love fills the heart,
It is hardly conceivable that Brabantio Brabantio has never felt or believed in.
should not have been proud of this All must be magic which is not custom- daughter, of whose beauty and fascinaary.
tion he must have heard all tongues Shakespeare carefully shows, in Des speak in praise. What pains has not demona's address to the Senate, how Shakespeare taken to tell us over and matters stood between her father and
over again what this gracious creature herself. “ Do you know in all this
was ! As she moved among her father's noble company," he asks her," where guests in his palace halls, or flashed in most you owe obedience ?" Obedience, her gondola along the canals of Venice, observe, not affection,
And what is her what admiring eyes must have followed reply ? 'Not that of a shrinking, timid her! Of her serene grace and womanly girl, but that of a thoughtful woman ; gentleness Brabantio's words have inone whose mind and heart went with her
formed Cassio, the gentleman and love, whose courage is as great and as
scholar of high blood and breeding, high as she thinks the object of it speaks of her as worthy-ready to meet the consequences,
A maid and, above all, to transfer to her own That paragons description and wild fame."