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 Upon my explaining to Mitchell what had happened he looked at me coldly, as much as to say “What the devil is this now that this is telling me?” Then, thinking, I suppose, that I must have some secret hold on Mr. McCullagh or at least stand high in his favor, he gave me a very smile and said he would have made out for me a letter of introduction to the local managers. An hour later this was laid on my desk by Hartung, who congratulated me, and there I was: dramatic editor. “Gee!” exclaimed Hartung when he came in with the letter. “I bet you could have knocked Tobe over with a straw! He doesn’t understand yet, I guess, how well you stand with the old man. The chief must like you, eh?” I could see that my new honor made a considerable difference in his already excellent estimate of me.  
Armed with this letter I now visited the managers of the theaters, all of whom received me cordially. I can still see myself very gay and enthusiastic, sure that I was entering upon a great work of some kind. And the dreams I had in connection with the theater, my future as a great popular perhaps! It was all such a wonder-world to me, the stage, such a fairyland, that I bubbled with joy as I went about thinking that now certainly I should come in touch with actors, beautiful women! Think of it—dramatic critic!—a person of weight and authority!
There were seven or eight theaters in St. Louis, three or four of them staging only that better sort of play known as a first-class attraction; the others giving , and . The manager of the Grand, a short, thick-set, sandy-complexioned man of most , was McManus, father of the well-known cartoonist of a later period and the prototype of his most humorous character, Mr. Jiggs. He exclaimed upon seeing me:
“So you’re the new dramatic editor, are you? Well, they change around over there pretty swift, don’t they? What’s happened to Carmichael? First it was Hartridge, then Albertson, then Hazard, then Mathewson, then Carmichael, and now you, all in my time. Well, Mr. Dreiser, I’m glad to see you. You’re always welcome here. I’ll take you out and introduce you to our doormen and Mr. —— in the box-office. He’ll always recognize you. We’ll give you the best seat in the house if it’s empty when you come.”
He smiled humorously and I had to laugh at the way he off this welcome. An aura of and humor encircled him, quite the same as that which makes Mr. Jiggs . This was the first I had ever heard of Hazard having held this position, and now I felt a little guilty, as though I had edged him out of something that rightfully belonged to him. Still, I didn’t really care, sentimentalize as I might. I had won.
“Did Bob Hazard once have this position?” I asked familiarly.
“Yes. That was when he was on the paper the last time. He’s been off and on the Globe three or four times, you know.” He smiled clownishly. I laughed.
“You and I’ll get along, I guess,” he smiled.
At the other theaters I was received less informally but with uniform courtesy; all assured me that I should be welcome at any time and that if I ever wished tickets for myself or a friend or anybody on the paper I could get them if they had them. “And we’ll make it a point to have them,” said one. I felt that this was quite an acquisition of influence. It gave me considerable opportunity to be nice to any friends I might acquire, and then think of the privilege of seeing any show I chose, to walk right into a theater without being stopped, and to be pleasantly greeted en route!
The character of the stage of that day, in St. Louis and the rest of America at least, as contrasted with what I know of its history in the world in general, a curious and interesting thing to me. As I look back on it now it seems , but then it was wonderful. It is possible that nations, like plants or individuals, have to grow and obtain their full development regardless of the accumulated store of wisdom and achievement in other lands, else how otherwise explain the vast level of mediocrity which obtains in some countries and many forms of effort, and that after so much that has been important elsewhere?
The stage in other lands had already seen a few tremendous periods; even here in America the mimetic art was no mystery. A few great things had been done, in at least, by Booth, Barrett, Macready, Forrest, Jefferson, Modjeska, Fanny Davenport, Mary Anderson, to name but a few. I was too young at the time to know or judge of their art or the quality of the plays they interpreted, aside from those of Shakespeare perhaps, but certainly their fame for a high form of production was considerable.
And yet, during the few months that I was dramatic editor, and the following year when I was a member of another staff and had entrée to these same theaters, I saw only one or two actors the name, only one or two performances which I can now deem worth while. Richard Mansfield and Felix Morris stand out in my mind as excellent, and Sol Smith Russell and Joseph Jefferson as amusing , but who else? Comic and light opera, with a heavy inter-mixture of straight melodrama, and comedy-dramas, were about the only things that managers ventured to essay. Occasionally a serious actor of the of Sir Henry Irving or E. S. Willard would appear on the scene, but many of their plays were of a more or less melodramatic character, highly , emotional and unreal. In my stay here of about a year and a half I saw Joseph Jefferson, Sol Smith Russell, Salvini junior, Wilson Barrett, Fanny Davenport, Richard Mansfield, E. S. Willard, Felix Morris, E. H. Sothern, Julia Marlowe and a score of others more or less important but too numerous to mention; comedians, light-opera singers and the like; and although at the time I was entertained and moved by some of them, I now realize that in the main they were certainly pale spindling lights. And at that, America was but then entering upon its worst period of stage sentiment or mush. The movies as such had not yet appeared, but “Mr. Frohman presents” was upon us, master of middle-class sweetness and sentimentality. I remember staring at the three-sheet lithos and thinking how beautiful and perfect they were and what a great t............
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