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 Edwin Forrest has good claims for a biography. The world, it has been said, is annually inundated with an intolerable flood of lives of nobodies. So much the stronger motive, then, for presenting the life of one who was an emphatic somebody. There is no more wholesome or more fascinating exercise for our faculties than in a wise and liberal spirit to contemplate the career of a gifted and conspicuous person who has lived largely and deeply and shown bold and exalted qualities. To analyze his experience, study the pictures of his deeds, and estimate his character by a free and universal standard, is one of the fittest and finest tasks to which we can be summoned. To do this with assimilating sympathy and impartial temper, stooping to no meaner considerations than the good and evil, the baseness and grandeur of man as man, requires a degree of freedom from narrow distastes, class and local biases, but rarely attained. Every effort pointing in this direction, every biographic essay characterized by a full human tone or true catholicity, promises to be of service, and thus carries its own justification. The habit of esteeming and censuring men in this generous human fashion, uninfluenced by any sectarian or partisan motive, unswayed by any clique or caste, is one of the ripest results of intellectual and moral culture. It implies that fusion of wisdom and charity which alone issues in a grand justice. One of the commonest evils among men is an undue sympathy for the styles of character and modes of life most familiar to them or like their own, with an undue antipathy for those unfamiliar to them or unlike their own. It is a duty and a privilege to outgrow this low and poor limitation by cultivating a more liberal range of appreciation.
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There is still lingering in many minds, especially in the so-called religious world, a strong prejudice against the dramatic profession. Analyzed down to its origin, the long warfare of church and theatre, the instinctive aversion of priest and player, will be found to be rooted in the essential opposition of their respective ideals of life. The ecclesiastical ideal is ascetic, its method painful obedience and prayer, its chief virtues self-restraint and denial; the dramatic ideal is free, its method self-development and culture, its ruling aims gratification and fulfilment The votaries of these distinctive sets of convictions and sentiments have from an early age formed two hostile camps. Accordingly, when one known as a clergyman was said to be writing the life of an actor, the announcement created surprise and curiosity and elicited censorious comment. The question was often asked, how can this strange conjunction be explained? It is therefore, perhaps, not inappropriate for the author of the present work to state the circumstances and motives which caused him to undertake it. The narrative will be brief, and may, with several advantages, take the place of a formal preface. Conventional prefaces are rarely read; but the writer trusts that the statement he proposes to make will be not only interesting to the reader but likewise helpful, by furnishing him with the proper key and cue to the succeeding chapters. It may serve as a sort of preparatory lighting up of the field to be traversed; a kind of prelusive sketch of the provinces of experience to be surveyed, of the lessons to be taught, and of the credentials of the author in the materials and other conditions secured to him for the completion of his task. This statement is to be taken as an explanation, not as an apology. The only justification needed lies in the belief that the theatrical life may be as pure and noble as the ecclesiastical; that the theatre has as sound a claim to support as the church; that the great actor, properly equipped for his work, is the most flexible and comprehensive style of man in the world, master of all types of human nature and all grades of human experience; and that the priestly profession in our day has as much to learn from the histrionic as it has to teach it.
In the winter of 1867, a man of genius, a friend in common between us, having been struck by paralysis and left without support for his family, I encountered James Oakes engaged in the benevolent business of raising funds for the relief of the
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 sufferers from this calamity. Propitious conditions were thus supplied for the beginning of our acquaintance in respect and sympathy. There were characteristic cardinal chords in our breasts which vibrated in unison, and, in consequence, a strong liking sprang up between us.
For forty years James Oakes had been the sworn bosom friend of Edwin Forrest. He regarded him with an admiration and love romantic if not idolatrous. He had, as he said, known him as youth, as man, in all hours, all fortunes; had summered him and wintered him, and for nigh half a century held him locked in the core of his heart, which he opened every day to look in on him there. He resembled him in physical development, in bearing, in unconscious tricks of manner, in tastes and habits. Indeed, so marked were the likeness and assimilation, despite many important differences, that scores of times the sturdy merchant was taken for the tragedian, and their photographs were as often identified with each other.
No one could long be in cordial relations with Oakes and not frequently hear him allude to his distinguished friend and relate anecdotes of him. Besides, I had myself recollections of Forrest warmly attracting me to him. He was one of the first actors I had ever seen on the stage; the very first who had ever electrified and spell-bound me. When a boy of ten years I had seen him in the old National Theatre in Boston in the characters of Rolla, Metamora, and Macbeth. The heroic traits and pomp of the parts, the impassioned energy and vividness of his delineations, the bell, drum, and trumpet qualities of his amazing voice, had thrilled me with emotions never afterwards forgotten. I had also, in later years, often seen him in his best casts. Accordingly, when, on occasion of a visit of Forrest to his friend in Boston in the early autumn of 1868, the offer of a personal interview was given me, I accepted it with alacrity.
There were three of us, and we sat together for hours that flew unmarked. It was a charmed occasion. There was no jar or hindrance, and he without restraint unpacked his soul of its treasures of a lifetime. The great range of experience from which he drew pictures and narratives with a skill so dramatic, the rare ease and force of his conversation, the deep vein of sadness obviously left by his trials, the bright humor with which he so
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 naturally relieved this gloom and vented his heart, the winning confidence and gentleness with which he treated me, no touch or glimpse of anything coarse or imperious perceptible in that genial season,—all drew me to him with unresisted attraction. I seemed to recognize in him the unquestionable signals of an honest and powerful nature, magnanimous, proud, tender, equally intellectual and impassioned, harshly tried by the world yet reaping richly from it, capable of eloquent thoughts and great acts, not less fond and true in friendship than tenacious in enmity, always self-reliant, living from impulses within, and not, like so many persons, on tradition and conventionality.
Such was the beginning of my private acquaintance with Forrest. Between that date and his death I had many meetings and spent considerable time with him. He took me into his confidence, unbosomed himself to me without reserve, recounted the chief incidents of his life, and freely revealed, even as to a father confessor, his inmost opinions, feelings, and secret deeds. The more I learned of the internal facts of his career, and the more thoroughly I mastered his character, constantly reminding one—as his friend Daniel Dougherty suggested—of the character of Guy Darrell in the great novel of Bulwer, the more I saw to respect and love. It is true he had undeniable faults,—defects and excesses which perversely deformed his noble nature,—such as frequent outbreaks of harshness and fierceness, occasional superficial profanity, a vein of unforgiving bitterness, sudden alternations of repulsive stiffness with one and too unrestrained familiarity with another. Still, in his own proper soul, from centre to circumference, undisturbed by collisions, he was grand and sweet. When truly himself, not chafed or crossed, a more interesting man, or a pleasanter, no one need wish to meet.
Oakes had long felt that the life of his friend, so prominent and varied and comprehensive, eminently deserved to be recorded in some full and dignified form. He was seeking for a suitable person to whom to intrust the work. With the assent of Forrest he urged me to assume it. I did not at first accede to the proposal, but took it into consideration, making, meanwhile, a careful study of the subject, and arriving finally at the conclusions which follow.
I found in Edwin Forrest a man who must always live in the
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 history of the stage as the first great original American actor. This place is secured to him by his nativity, the variety, independence, vigor, and impressiveness of his impersonations, the important parts with which he was so long exclusively identified, the extent and duration of his popularity, and the imposing results of his success. Other distinguished actors who have had a brilliant reputation in this country have been immigrants or visitors here, as Cooke, Cooper, Conway, Kean, Booth; or have been eminent only in some special part, as Marble, Hackett, Setchell, Jefferson; or have enjoyed but a local celebrity, as Burton, Warren, and others. But Forrest, home-born on our soil, intensely national in every nerve, is indissolubly connected with the early history of the American drama by a career of conspicuous eminence, illustrated in a score of the greatest characters, and reaching through fifty years. During this prolonged period his massive physique, his powerful personality, his electrifying energy, his uncompromising honesty and frankness, his wealth, the controversies that raged around him, the unhappy publicity of his domestic misfortune, and other circumstances of various kinds, combined, by means of the newspapers, pamphlets, pictures, statuettes, caricatures, to make him a familiar presence in every part of the country. Therefore, whatever differences there may have been in the critical estimates of the rank of his particular presentments or of his general style of acting, it is impossible to deny him his historic place as the first great representative American actor. He likewise deserves this place, as will hereafter be recognized, by his pronounced originality as the founder of a school of acting—the American School—which combined, in a manner without any prominent precedent, the romantic and the classic style, the physical fire and energy of the melodramatic school with the repose and elaborate painting of the artistic school.
It cannot be fairly thought that the great place and fame of Forrest are accidental. Such achievements as he compassed are not adventitious products of luck or caprice, but are the general measure of worth and fitness. Otherwise, why did they not happen as well to others among the hundreds of competitors who contended with him at every step for the same prizes, but were all left behind in the open race? If mere brawniness, strut
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ting, rant, purchased favor, and clap-trap could command such an immense and sustained triumph, why did they not yield it in other cases, since there were not at any time wanting numerous and accomplished professors of these arts? A wide, solid, and permanent reputation, such as crowned the career of Forrest, is obtained only by substantial merit of some kind. The price paid is commensurate with the value received.
The common mass of the community may not be able to judge of the supreme niceties of merit in the different provinces of art, to appreciate the finest qualities and strokes of genius, and award their plaudits and laurels with that exact justice which will stand as the impartial verdict of posterity. In these respects their decisions are often as erroneous as they are careless and fickle; and competent judges, trained in critical knowledge, skilled by long experience to detect the minutest shades of truth and falsehood, beauty and ugliness, desert and blameworthiness, will not hesitate to overrule the passing partialities of the contemporary crowd, and rectify their errors for the record of history. But the multitude are abundantly able—none more so—to respond with admiring interest to the impression of original power, recognize the broad outlines of a sublime and fiery soul, thrill under the general signs of genius, and pay deserved tribute to popular exhibitions of skill. And when this great coveted democratic tribute has been given to a public servant, in an unprecedented degree, for half a century, throughout the whole extent of a nation covering eight millions of square miles and including more than thirty millions of inhabitants, securing him a professional income of from twenty to forty thousand dollars a season, and filling three dozen folio volumes with newspaper and magazine cuttings composed of biographic sketches of him and critical notices of his performances,—to undertake to set aside the overwhelming verdict, as deceived and vulgar, is both idle and presumptuous. To account for a career like that of Edwin Forrest it is necessary to admit that he must have embodied force, intellect, passion, culture, and perseverance in a very uncommon degree. And in perceiving and honoring the general evidences of this the great average of the people are better judges, fairer critics, than any special classes or cliques can be; because the former are free from the finical likes and dislikes, the local whims
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 and biases, the envy and squeamishness which prejudice the feelings and corrupt the judgments of the latter.
The historic place and power of Forrest are of themselves one good reason why his life should be fully and fairly written while all the data are within reach. For it can hardly be a matter of doubt that the theatre is destined in future ages to have in this country a rank and a space assigned to it in the education and entertainment of the public such as it has not yet known. The interest in types of human nature, in modes of human life, in all the marvels of the inner world of the soul, will increase with that popular leisure and culture which the multiplication of labor-saving machinery promises to carry to an unknown pitch; and as fast as this interest grows, the estimate of the drama will ascend as the best school for the living illustration of the experience of man. It is not improbable that the scholars and critics of America a hundred or two hundred years hence will be looking back and laboring with a zeal we little dream of now to recover the beginnings of our national stage as seen in its first representatives. For then the theatre, in its splendid public examples and in its innumerable domestic reduplications, will be regarded as the unrivalled educational mirror of humanity.
Of no American actor has there yet been written a biography worthy of the name; though scarcely any other sphere of life is so crowded with adventure, with romance, with every kind of affecting incident, and with striking moral lessons. The theatre is a concentrated nation in itself. It is a moving and illuminated epitome of mankind. It is a condensed and living picture of the ideal world within the real world. It has its old man, its old woman, its king and queen, its fop, buffoon, and drudge, its youth, its chambermaid, its child, its fine lady, its hero, its walking gentleman, its villain,—in short, its possible patterns of every style of character and life. On the surface of that little mimic world play in miniature reflection all the jealousies and ambitions, hopes and fears, joys and sorrows, plots and counterplots, of the huge actual world roaring without. A clear portrayal of this from the interior, or even a constant suggestion of it in connection with the history of one of its representatives, must be full of interest and edification.
It is very singular, and lamentable too, that while there are
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 hundreds of admirable and celebrated biographies of kings, generals, statesmen, artists, inventors, merchants, authors, there is said not to exist a single life of an actor which is a recognized classic, a work combining standard value and popular charm. This is especially strange when we recollect that the genius of the player has an incomparable claim for literary preservation, because the glorious monuments of the deeds of the others remain for the contemplation of posterity, but the achievements of the actor pass away with himself in a fading tradition. Architect, sculptor, painter, poet, composer, legislator, bequeath their works as a posthumous life. The tragedian has no chance of this sort unless the features and accents of the great characters he created are photographed in breathing description on the pages that record his triumphs and make him live forever, who otherwise would soon become a bodiless and inaudible echo.
The highest value and service of histrionic genius consist herein; that the magical power of its performances evokes in the souls of those who throng to gaze on them the noblest thoughts and sentiments in a degree superior to that in which they experience them in ordinary life. They thus feel themselves exalted to a grander pitch than their native one. If the great impersonations of Forrest can in a permanent biography be pictured adequately in the colors of reality, each copy of the book will perpetuate a reflex Forrest to repeat in literature on succeeding generations what he did so effectively in life on his contemporaries; namely, strike the elemental chords of human nature till they vibrate with intense sympathy to sublimer degrees than their own of the great virtues of manly sincerity, heroism, honor, domestic love, friendship, patriotism, and liberty, which he illustrated in his chief parts.
Furthermore, every actor who excelling in his art maintains a high character and bearing, and wins a proud social position and fortune, exerts an effective influence in removing the traditional odium or suspicion from his class, and thus confers a benefit on all who are hereafter to be members of it. His example deserves to be lifted into general notice. In the case of Forrest this consideration received an unprecedented emphasis from the fact of his devoting the vast sum of money amassed in his laborious lifetime to the endowment of a home for aged and dependent
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 members of his profession, and of a school for the public teaching of the dramatic art.
Besides, he was a man of extraordinary strength and originality of character, an imperious, self-defending personality, living steadfastly at first hand from his own impulses, perceptions, and purposes, not shiftily in faded reflections of the opinions and wishes of other people at the second or third remove. He was a standing refutation of the common prejudice against actors, that simulating so many fictitious traits they gradually cease to have genuine ones of their own, and become mere lay figures ready for every chance dress. If any man ever was true to his own fixed type, Forrest was. The study of such a character is always attractive and strengthening, a valuable tonic for more dependent and aimless natures.
He lived a varied, wide, and profound life. He travelled extensively, mingled with all sorts of people, the noble and the base, the high and the low, observed keenly, reflected much, was exposed to almost every sort of trial, and assimilated into his experience the principal secrets of human nature. The moral substance of the world passed into his soul, and the great lessons of human destiny were epitomized there. He knew the inebriating sweetness of popular applause, and the bitter revulsions consequent on its change into public disfavor and censure. He wore the honors, suffered the penalties, and proved both the solidity and the hollowness of fame on its various levels, from the wild idolatry of ignorant throngs to the admiring friendship of gifted and refined spirits. There are swarms of men of dry and contracted souls, and of a poor, wearisome monotony of conventional habits, with no spiritual saliency or relish, no free appropriation of the treasures of the world, whose lives if written would have about as much dignity and interest as the life of a dorbug or a bat. But when a man's faculties are expansive, and have embraced, in a fresh, impulsive way, a great range of experiences, the story is worth telling, and, if truly told, will not fail to yield matter for profitable meditation.
In addition, Forrest always showed himself a man of sterling integrity, inflexible truth, whose word was as good as his bond, who toiled in the open ways of self-denial and industry to build his name and position. He bribed no one to write him up,
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 bought no one from writing him down, stooped to no startling eccentricities or tricks to get himself talked about, arranged no conspiracies to push his own claims or hold others back, but by manly resolution, study, and effort paid the fair price for all he won, triumphantly resisting those insidious lures of indolence, dissipation, and improvidence so incident to a theatrical career, and steadily raising himself to the summit of his difficult profession, where he sat in assured mastery for two generations. There was a native grandeur about him which attracted admiring attention wherever he moved.
The life of one who for so long a time and in so great a degree enjoyed the favor of his countrymen may be said to belong to the public. The man who has been watched with such eagerness in the fictitious characters of the stage kindles a desire to see him truly in his own. It is proper that the story should be told for the gratification of the natural curiosity of the people, as well as for the sake of the numerous lessons it must inculcate. The lesson of an adventurous and ascending career surmounting severe hardships and obstacles,—the lesson of a varied, fresh, full, racy, and idiosyncratic experience,—the lesson of an extraordinary knowledge of the world, transmuting into consciousness the moral substance of the sphere of humanity,—the lesson of self-respect and force of character resisting the strongest temptations to fatal indulgence,—the lesson of strong faults and errors, not resisted or concealed, but unhappily yielded to, and the bearing of their unavoidable penalties,—the lesson of resolute devotion to physical training developing a frail and feeble child into a man of herculean frame and endurance,—the lesson of talent and ambition patiently employing the means of artistic mental improvement by independent application to truth and nature,—the lesson of a brilliant fortune and position bravely won and maintained,—these and other lessons, besides all those numerous and highly important ones which the theatrical world and the dramatic art in themselves present for the instruction of mankind, have not often been more effectively taught than they may be from the life of Edwin Forrest.
The subject-matter of the drama, understood in its full dignity, is nothing less than the science of human nature and the art of commanding its manifestations. The exemplification of this in the
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 theatre in our country, it is believed, will hereafter be endowed with a personal instructiveness and a social influence greater than it has ever had anywhere else. For the moral essence and interest of representative playing on the stage ultimately reside in the contrasts between the varieties of reality and ideality in the characters and lives of human beings. All spiritual import centres in the conflict and reconciliation of actuals and ideals. In this point of view the biography of the principal American as yet identified with the histrionic profession assumes a grave importance for Americans. Such a narrative will afford opportunity to show what are the elements of good and bad acting both in earnest and in fiction; to contrast the folly of living to gain applause with the dignity of living to achieve merit; to exhibit the valuable uses of competent criticism, the frequency and ridiculous arrogance of ignorant and prejudiced criticism; to expose the mean and malignant artifices of envy, jealousy, and ignoble rivalry. It will, in a word, give occasion for illustrating the true ideal of life, the harmonious fruition of the full richness of human nature, with instances of approaches to it and of departures from it. To get behind the scenes of the dramatic art is to get behind the scenes of the sources of power, the arts of sway, the workings of vice and virtue, the deepest secrets of the historic world.
In the distinguishing peculiarities of his structure and strain Edwin Forrest was one of those extraordinary men who seem to spring up rarely here and there, as if without ancestors, direct from some original mould of nature, and constitute a breed apart by themselves. Alexander, Cæsar, Demosthenes, Mirabeau, Chatham, Napoleon, draw their volitions from such an unsounded reservoir of power, have such latent resources of intuition, can strike such all-staggering blows, that common men, appalled before their mysteriousness, instinctively revere and obey. In the primeval time such men loomed with the overshadowing port of deities and were worshipped as avatars from a higher world. One of this class of men has, if we may use the figure, a sphere so dense and vast that the lighter and lesser spheres of those around him give way on contact with his firmer and weightier gravitation. Wherever he goes he is treated as a natural king. He carries his royal credentials in the intrinsic rank of his organism. There is in his nervous system, resulting from the free
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 connection and uninterrupted interplay of all its parts, a centralized unity, a slowly swaying equilibrium, which fills him with the sense of a saturating drench of power. His consciousness seems to float on his surcharged ganglia in an intoxicating dreaminess of balanced force, which, by the transcendent fearlessness and endurance it imparts, lifts him out of the category of common men. The dynamic charge in his nervous centres is so deep and intense that it produces a chronic exaltation above fear into complacency, and raises him towards the eternal ether, among the topmost heads of our race. Each of these men in his turn draws from his admiring votaries the frequent sigh of regret that nature made but one such and then broke the die. This high gift, this unimpartable superiority, is a secret safely veiled from vulgar eyes. Fine spirits recognize its occult signals in the pervasive rhythm of the spinal cord, the steadiness of the eye, the enormous potency of function, the willowy massiveness of bearing, and a certain mystic languor whose sleeping surface can with swift and equal ease emit the soft gleams of love to delight or flash the forked bolts of terror to destroy. This gift, as terrible as charming, varies with the temperament and habits of its possessor. In Coleridge its profuse electricity was steeped in metaphysical poppy and mandragora. In our American Samuel Adams it was gathered in a battery that discharged the most formidable shocks of revolutionary eloquence. In Sargent S. Prentiss, one of the most imperial personalities this continent has known, it stood at a great height, but his body was too much for his brain, and, as in a thousand other melancholy examples of splendid genius ruined, the authentic divinity continually gave way to its maudlin counterfeit. Where the spell of this supernal inspiration has been inbreathed, unless it be accompanied by noble employment and gratified affection, either the mind topples into delirium and imbecility, or the temptation to drunkenness is irresistible. It can know none of the intermediate courses of mediocrity, but must still touch some extreme; and one of the five words, ambition, love, saintliness, madness, or idiocy, covers the secret history and close of genius on the earth.
In his basic build, his informing temperament, the habitual sway of his being, Forrest was a marked specimen of this dominating class of men. The circumstances of his life and the training
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 of his mind were unfavorable to the full development of his power, in the highest directions; and it never came in him to a refined and free consciousness. Had it done so, as it did in Daniel Webster, he would have been a man entirely great. Webster was scarcely better known by his proper name than by his popular sobriquet of the godlike. He and Forrest were fashioned and equipped on the same scale, and closely resembled each other in many respects. The atlantean majesty of Webster seemed so self-commanded in its immense stability that the spectator imagined it would require a thousand men planting their levers at the distance of a mile to tip him from his poise. When he drew his hand from his bosom and stretched it forth in emphatic gesture, the movement suggested the weight of a ton. It was so with Forrest. The slowness of his action was sometimes wonderfully impressive, suggesting to the consciousness an imaginative apprehension of immense spaces and magnitudes with a corresponding dilation of passion and power. His attitudes and gestures cast angles whose lines appeared, as the imagination followed them, to reach to elemental distances. And it is the perception or the vague feeling of such things as these that magnetizes a spell-bound auditory as they gaze. The organic foundation for this exceptional power is the unification of the nervous system by the exact correlation and open communication of all its scattered batteries. This heightens the force of each point by its sympathetic reinforcement with all points. The focal equilibrium that results is the condition of an immovable self-possession. This is an attainment much more common once than it is in our day of external absorption and frittering anxieties. Its signs, the pathetic and sublime indications of this transfused unity, are visible in the immortal masterpieces of antique art, in the statues of the gods, kings, sages, heroes, and great men of India, Egypt, Greece, and Rome. It is now excessively rare. Most of us are but as collections of fragments pieced together, so full of strictures and contractions that no vibratory impact or undulation can circulate freely in us. But Forrest had this open and poised unity in such a degree that when at ease he swayed on his centre like a mountain on a pivot, and when volition put rigidity into his muscles the centre was solidaire with the periphery. And he was thus differenced from his average fellow-men just as those two or three matchless thorough
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bred stallions who have so startlingly raised the breed of horses in this whole country were differenced from their plebeian brothers in the dray and at the plough.
The truth here indicated is one of surpassing importance. However overlooked by the ignorant multitude, it was blindly felt by them, and it was clearly seen by all who had the key to it, especially by women of rich intuitions. With these Forrest was always an especial favorite. Not only did the magnetizing signs of his power so work upon hundreds of men all over the land that he was imitated by them, his habitudes of bearing and voice copied and transmitted, but they also wrought more deeply still on more sensitive imaginations, producing reactions there to be transmitted thence upon their offspring and perpetuate his traits in future generations. This is one of the historic prerogatives of the potent and brilliant artist, one of the chosen modes by which selective nature or providence improves the strain of our race. No biography can have a stronger claim on public attention than one which promises to throw light on the law for exalting the human organism to its highest perfection,—a secret which belongs to the complete training of a dramatic artist and the fascination with which it invests him in the eyes of sensibility.
Still further, Forrest has a claim for posthumous justice as one who was wronged in important particulars of his life and misjudged in essential elements of his character. Outraged, as he conceived, in the sanctities of his manhood, he bore the obloquy for years with outward silence, but with an inner resentment that rankled to his very soul. Endowed with a tender and expansive heart, cultivated taste, and a scrupulous sense of justice, shrinking sensitively from any stain on his honor, he was in many circles considered a selfish despot addicted to the most unprincipled practices. His enemies, combining with certain sets of critics, incompetent, prejudiced, or unprincipled, caused it to be quite commonly supposed that he was a coarse, low performer, merely capable of splitting the ears of the groundlings; while, in fact, his intellectual vigor, his conversational powers, his literary discernment, and his sensibility to the choicest delicacies of sentiment were as much superior to those of the ordinary run of men as his popular success on the stage was greater than that of the ordinary stock of actors. Betrayed—as he and his intimate
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 friends believed—in his own home, he was, when at length, after long forbearance, moved to seek legal redress, himself accused, and as he always felt, against law, evidence, and equity, loaded with shameful condemnation and damages. Standing by his early friends with faithful devotion and open purse, he was accused of heartlessly deserting them in their misfortunes. A penniless boy, making his money not by easy speculations which bring a fortune in a day, but by hard personal labor, he gave away over a quarter of a million dollars, and then was stigmatized as an avaricious curmudgeon. Cherishing the keenest pride in his profession and in those who were its honor and ornament,—bestowing greater pecuniary benefactions on it than any other man who ever lived, and meditating a nobler moral service to it than any other mere member of it has conferred since Thespis first set up his cart,—he was accused of valuing his art only as a means of personal enrichment and glorification, and of being a haughty despiser of his theatrical brothers and sisters. As a result of these industrious misrepresentations, there is abroad in a large portion of the community a judgment of him which singularly inverts every fair estimate of his deserts after a complete survey. It seems due to justice that the facts be stated, and his character vindicated, so far as the simple light of the realities of the case will vindicate it.
Two definite illustrations may here fitly serve to show that the foregoing statements are to be regarded not as vague generalities, but as strict and literal truth. One is in relation to the frequent estimate of Forrest as a quarrelsome, fighting man. Against this may be set the simple fact that, with all his gigantic strength, pugilistic skill, and volcanic irritability, from his eighteenth year to his death he never laid violent hand in anger on a human being, except in one instance, and that was when provocation had set him beside himself. The other illustration is concerning his alleged pecuniary meanness. When he was past sixty-five, alone in the world with his fast-swelling fortune, under just the circumstances to give avarice its sharpest edge and energy, he set apart the sum of fifty thousand dollars for an annuity to an old friend, to release him from toil and make his last years happy. Even of those called generous, how many in our day are capable of such a deed in answer to a silent claim of friendship?
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One more element or feature in this life, of public interest, of attraction and value for biographic use, is its strictly American character. All the outlines and setting of Forrest's career, the quality and smack of his sentiments, the mould and course of his thoughts, the style of his art, were distinctly American. His immediate descent, on both sides, from European immigrants suggests the lesson of the mixture in our nationality, the providential place and purpose of the great world-gathering of nationalities and races in our republic. His personal prejudice against foreigners, with his personal indebtedness to the teachings and examples of foreigners,—Pilmore, Wilson, Cooper, Conway, Kean,—brings up the question of the just feelings which ought to subsist between our native-born and our naturalized citizens; that true spirit of human catholicity which should blend them all in a patriotism identical at last with universal philanthropy and scorning to harbor any schismatic dislikes. And then his intimate relations, at critical periods of his life, with the most marked specimens of our Western and Southern civilization, bring upon the biographic scene many illustrations of those unique American characters, having scarcely prototypes or antitypes, which have passed away forever with the state of society that produced them.
His experience arched from 1806 to 1872, a period perhaps more momentous in its events, discoveries, inventions, and prophetic preparations than any other of the same length since history began. He saw his country expand from seventeen States to thirty-seven, and from a population of six millions to one of forty millions, with its flag floating in every wind under heaven. Washington, indeed, and Franklin, were dead when the life of Forrest began; but Jefferson, Adams, Madison, Marshall, and a throng of the Revolutionary worthies were still on the stage. When he died, every one of the second great cluster of illustrious Americans, grouped in the national memory, with Clay, Calhoun, Webster, Irving, Cooper, and Channing in the centre, was gone; and even the third brilliant company, Emerson, Hawthorne, Bryant, Bancroft, and their peers, was already broken and faltering under the blows of death and decay. During this time his heart-strings stretched out to embrace, the vascular web of his proud sympathies was woven over, every successive State and
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 Territory added to our domain, till, in his later age, his enraptured eyes drank in the wondrous loveliness of the landscapes of California. By his constant travels and sojourns in all parts of the land, by his acquaintance with innumerable persons representing all classes and sections, by the various relationships of his profession with literature, the press, and the general public, there are suggestive associations, for more than fifty years, between his person, his spirit, his fortunes, and everything that is most peculiar and important in the historic growth and moral changes and destiny of his country.
The composition of a narrative doing justice to a life with such contents and such relations may well be thought worth the while of any one. And if it be properly composed, if the programme here laid down be adequately filled up, the result cannot fail to offer instructions worthy the attention of the American people.
For the reasons now explained, the most intimate friends of Forrest had often tried to induce him to write his own memoir. They knew that such a work would possess extreme interest and value, and they felt that he had every qualification to do it better than it could be done by anybody else. But their efforts were vain. Pride in him was greater than vanity. He had as much self-respect as he had self-complacency. He was, therefore, not ruled by those motives which caused Cicero, Augustine, Petrarch, Rousseau, Gibbon, and a throng of lesser men, to take delight in painting their own portraits, describing their own experiences, toning up the details with elaborate touches. To the reiterated arguments urged by his friends, he replied, "I have all my life been surrounded, as it were, by mirrors reflecting me to myself at every turn; subjected to those praises and censures which keep consciousness in a fever; accompanied at every step by a constant clapping of hands and stamping of feet and pointing of fingers, with the shout or the whisper, 'There goes Forrest!' I have for years been sick of this fixing of attention on myself. I can enjoy sitting down alone and recalling the scenes and occurrences of the past, regarding them as objects and events outside. But to call them up distinctly as parts of myself, and record them as a connected whole, with constant references to the standards in my own mind and the prejudices in the minds of my friends and my enemies,—I cannot do it. The pain of the reminiscences, the
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 distress of the fixed self-contemplation, would be too much. It would drive me mad. Give over. No persuasion on earth can induce me to think of it."
Every attempt to secure an autobiography having failed, the author of the present work was led, under the circumstances before stated, and with the promise that every facility should be afforded him, to assume the task. In the first conversation held with him on the undertaking, Forrest said, "Tell the truth frankly. Let there be no whitewashing. Show me just as I have been and am." As he thus spoke, he took down from a shelf of his library the first volume of the "Memoirs of Bannister the Comedian," by John Adolphus, and read, in rich sweet tones mellowed by the echoes of his heart, the opening paragraph, which is as follows: "A friendship of many years' duration, terminated only by his death, impels me to lay before the public a memoir of the life of the late John Bannister. In executing this task I am exempted from the difficulties that so frequently beset the author of a friendly biographical essay: I have no vices to conceal, no faults to palliate, no contradictions to reconcile, no ambiguities of conduct to explain. I purpose to narrate the life of a man whose characteristic integrity and buoyant benevolence were always apparent in his simulated characters, and who in real life proved that those exhibitions were not assumed for the mere purposes of his profession, but that his great success in his difficult career arose in no small degree from that truth and sincerity which diffused their influence over the personages he represented." As the admiring cadence of his voice died sadly away, he laid down the volume and said to his auditor, "For your sake, in the work on which you have entered, I wish it were with me as it was with Bannister. But it is otherwise. My faults are many, and I deserve much blame. Yet, after every confession and every regret, I feel before God that I have been a man more sinned against than sinning; and, if the whole truth be told, I am perfectly willing to bear all the censure, all the condemnation, that justly belongs to me. Therefore use no disguising varnish, but let the facts stand forth."
Such were the words of Forrest himself; and in their spirit the author will proceed, sparing no pains to learn the truth, neither holding back or trimming down foibles and vices nor magnify
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ing virtues, recording his own honest convictions without fear or favor, hoping to produce as the result a book which shall do justice to its subject, and contain enough substantial worth and interest to repay the attention its readers may bestow on it. The work will be written more from the stage point of view than from the pulpit point of view, but most of all from that popularized academic or philosophic point of view which surveys the whole field of human life in a spirit at once of scientific appreciation, poetic sympathy, and impartial criticism.
It is to be understood that the acts or traits herein described which reflect particular credit on Edwin Forrest have not been paraded or proclaimed by himself, but have either been drawn from him by questioning or been discovered through inquiries set on foot and documents brought to light by friends who loved and honored him, knew how grossly he had been belied, and were determined that his true record should be set before the public. The writer hopes his readers will not here take a prejudice, imagining that they spy that frequent weakness of biographers, a tendency to undue laudation. All that he asks is that a candid examination be given to the evidence he adduces, and then that a corresponding decision be rendered. While he tries to do justice to the good side of his subject, he will be equally frank in exposing the ill side and pointing its morals.
The sources of information and authority made use of are as follows: First, conversations and correspondence, for five years, with Forrest himself; second, conversations and correspondence with his chief friends and intimates; third, half a dozen biographical sketches of considerable length, several of them in print, the others in manuscript; fourth, magazine articles and newspaper notices and criticisms, extending through his entire career, and reaching to the number of some twenty thousand; fifth, the mass of letters and papers left by him at his death, and made available for my purpose by the kindness of his executors. I must also make grateful acknowledgment, in particular, of valuable suggestions and aid from Gabriel Harrison and T. H. Morrell, two enthusiastic admirers of the player, whose loving zeal for him did not end with his exit.

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