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 Edwin Forrest made his first appearance on the stage of this world the ninth day of March, 1806, in the city of Philadelphia. His father, William Forrest, was a Scotchman, who had migrated to America and established himself in business as an importer of Scottish fabrics. He was of good descent. His father, the grandparent of the subject of this biography, is described as a large, powerfully-built man, residing, in a highly respectable condition, at Cooniston, Mid-Lothian, Edinburgh County, Scotland. In the margin is a copy of the family coat of arms. It was discovered and presented to Mr. Forrest by his friend William D. Gallagher. The motto, "Their life and their green strength are coeval," or, as it may be turned, "They live no longer than they bear verdure," happily characterizes a race whose hardy constitutions show their force in vigorous deeds to the very end. He who, in America, plumes himself on mere titular nobility of descent, may be a snob; but the science of genealogy, the tracing of historic lineages and transmitted family characteristics, deals with one of the keenest interests of the human heart,
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 one of the profoundest elements in the destiny of man. And the increasing attention given to the subject in our country is a good sign, and not the trifling vanity which some superficial critics deem it. It deals with those complicated facts of crossing or mingling streams of blood and lines of nerve out of which—and it is a point of immeasurable importance—the law of hereditary communication of qualities and quantities, influences and destinies, is to be formulated.
William Forrest, after a long struggle against pecuniary embarrassments, gave up his mercantile business, and obtained a situation in the old United States Bank. On the closing of that institution, in connection with which his merits had secured him the friendly acquaintance of the celebrated millionaire Stephen Girard, he received a similar appointment in the Girard Bank. This office he held until his death, oppressed with the debts bequeathed by his failure, supporting his family with difficulty, and leaving them quite destitute at last.
Mr. Forrest was much esteemed for his good sense, his dignified sobriety of demeanor, his strict probity, his modesty and industry. Reserved and taciturn in manners, tall, straight, and slender in person, he was a hard-working, care-worn, devout, and honest man, who strove to be just and true in every relation. He had a pale and sombre face, with regular features, which lighted up with strong expressiveness when he was pleased or earnestly interested. He was somewhat disposed to melancholy, though not at all morose, his depression and reserve being attributable rather to weariness under his enforced struggle with unfavorable conditions than to any native gloom of temper or social antipathy.
Edwin, in his own later years, dwelt with veneration on the memory of his father, and was fond of recalling his early recollections of him, deeply regretting that there was no portrait or daguerreotype of him in existence. He was wont to say that among the sweetest memories that remained to him from his childhood were the rich and musical though plaintive tones of his father's voice, the ringing and honest heartiness of his occasional laugh, and the singular charm of his smile. He said, "I used to think, when my father smiled, the light bursting over his dark and sad countenance,—its very rarity lending it a double
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 lustre,—I used to think I never saw anything so beautiful." The light of love and joy broke over his sombre features like sunshine suddenly gilding a gray crag.
The unobtrusive, toilsome life of this worthy man, unmarked by any salient points possessing general interest for the public, glided on in even course to the close, darkened by the shadows of material adversity, but brightened by the serene lights of domestic happiness and self-respect. In his poverty he knew many mortifications, many hardships of self-denial and anxious forethought. But in his upright character and blameless conduct, in his retiring and religious disposition, in the kind and respectful regard of all who knew him, he experienced the supports and consolations deserved by such a type of man,—a type common in the middle walks of American society, and as full of merit as it is free from all that is noisy or meretricious. He was not an educated man, not disciplined and adorned by the arts of literary and social culture. But his virtues made him eminently respectable in himself and in his sphere. He came of a good stock, with noble traditions in its veins, endowed with sound judgment, refined nervous fibre, a grave moral tone, and persevering self-reliance. He died of consumption, in 1819, in the sixty-second year of his age. In the death of his youngest son his blood was extinguished, and the fire went out on his family hearth. No member of his lineage remains on earth. The recollections of him, now dim threads in the minds of a few survivors, will soon fall into the unremembering maw of the past. Herein his life and fate have this interest for all, that they so closely resemble those of the great majority of our race. Few can escape this common lot of obscurity and oblivion. Nor should one care much to escape it. It is not possible for all to be conspicuous, famous, envied. Neither is it desirable. The genuine end for all is to be true and good, obedient to their duty, and useful and pleasant to their kind. If they can also be happy, why then, that is another blessing for which to thank God. Beyond a question the most illustrious favorites of fortune, amidst all the glitter and hurrah of their lot, are often less contented in themselves and less loved by their associates than those members of the average condition who attract so little attention while they stay and are forgotten so soon when they have gone. And, mortal limits once passed, what
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 matters all this to the immortal soul? The rank of a man in the sight of God and his fate in eternity—which are the essential things alike for the loftiest and the lowliest—depend on considerations very different from the tinsel of his station or the noise of his career. One may be poor, weak, obscure, unfortunate, yet be a truly good and happy man. That is the essential victory. Another may be rich, powerful, renowned, enveloped in the luxuries of the earth. If his soul is adjusted to its conditions and wisely uses them, this is a boon still more to be desired; for he too has the essential victory. The real end and aim of life always lie within the soul, not in any exterior prize: still, the best outward conditions may well be the most coveted, although there is no lot which does not yield full compensations, if the occupant of that lot is what he ought to be.
The foregoing sketch, brief and meagre as it is, presents all for which the constructive materials exist.
In turning from the father to the mother of Edwin Forrest, the data are as simple and modest as before, and a still more genial office awaits the biographer. For she was an excellent example of a good woman, gentle, firm, judicious, diligent, cheerful, religious, ever faithful to her duties, the model of what a wife and a mother ought to be. Her son growingly revered and loved her to the very end of his life, as much as a man could do this side of idolatry; and he was anxious that her portrait should be presented and her worth signalized in this book. Ample opportunities will be afforded for doing this.
Rebecca Forrest was, in every sense of the words, a true mate and helpmeet to her husband. He reposed on her with unwavering affection, respect, and confidence, and found unbroken comfort and satisfaction there, whatever might happen elsewhere. Through twenty-five years of happy wedlock she shared all his labors and trials, joys and sorrows, and survived him for a yet longer period, fondly venerating his memory, scrupulously guarding and training his children. Her maiden name was Lauman. Born in Philadelphia, she was of German descent on both sides, her parents having migrated thither in early life, and set up a new hearth-stone, to continue here, in a modified form, the old Teutonic homestead left with tears beyond the sea.
William Forrest and Rebecca Lauman were married in 1795,
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 he being at that time thirty-seven years old, she thirty-two. Seven children were born to them in succession at quite regular intervals of two years. The nameless boy who preceded Edwin in 1804 died at birth. The remaining six were all baptized in the Episcopal Church of Saint Paul, on Third Street, in Philadelphia, by the Rev. Doctor Pilmore, on the same day, November 13, 1813. The names of these six children, in the order of their birth, were Lorman, Henrietta, William, Caroline, Edwin, and Eleanora.
The first of these to die was Lorman, the eldest of the family. He was a tanner and currier by trade. He was over six feet in height, straight as an arrow, lithe and strong, and of a brave and adventurous disposition. He left home on a filibustering enterprise directed to some part of South America, in his twenty-sixth year, and nothing was heard of him afterwards. The following letter, written by Edwin to his brother William, who was then at Shepherdstown, in Virginia, announces the unfortunate design of poor Lorman:
"Philadelphia, August 1st, 1822.
"Dear Brother,—I received your favor of 29th July, and noted its contents. I am sorry to hear you have such ill luck. Your business in this city is very good.
"Lorman has returned from New York, and intends on Monday next to embark on board a patriot privateer, now lying in this port, for Saint Thomas, and from thence to South America, where, in the patriot service, he has been commissioned 1st lieutenant, at a salary of eighty dollars per month. He screens himself from mother by telling her he is going to Saint Thomas to follow his trade, being loath to inform her of the true cause. A numerous acquaintance accompany him on the said expedition. He wishes me to beg of you not to say anything when you return more than he has allowed himself to say. It is a glorious expedition, and had I not fair prospects in the theatric line I should be induced to go.
"Come on as early as possible. You may stand a chance of getting a berth in the Walnut Street Theatre, or, which is most certain and best, work at your trade.
"Mrs. Riddle has removed her dwelling to a romantic scene in Hamilton Villa. John Moore, advancing above mediocrity, per
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formed Alexander the Great for her benefit. Please write as early as possible. Till then adieu. In haste, your affectionate brother,
The expedition proved an ill-starred one, and Lorman perished in it in some unrecorded encounter, passing out of history like an unknown breath. It seems fated that the paths to all great goals shall be strewn with the wrecks of untimely and irregular enterprises, unfortunate but prophetic precursors of the final triumphs. It has been so in the case of the many premature and wrongful attempts to grasp for the flag of the United States those backward and waiting territories destined, perhaps, as the harmonies of Providence weave themselves out, spontaneously to shoot into the web of the completed unity of the Western Continent.
Many a gallant and romantic fellow, many a reckless brawler, many a coarse and vulgar aspirant, many a crudely dreaming and scheming patriot, half inspired, half mad, has fallen a victim to those numerous semi-piratical attempts at conquest which have in the eyes of some flung on our flag the lustre of their promise, in the eyes of others, planted there the stains of their folly and crime. But if there be a systematic plan or divine drift and purport in history, every one of these efforts has had its place, has contributed its quota of influence, has left its seed, yet to spring up and break into flower and fruit. Then every life, buried and forgotten while the slow preparations accumulate, will have a resurrection in the ripe fulfilment of the end for which it was spent. Meanwhile, the brief and humble memory of Lorman Forrest sleeps with the nameless multitude of pioneers the forerunning line of whose graves invites the progress of free America all around the hemisphere.
William, the second son, expired under a sudden attack of bilious colic, at the age of thirty-four. He was a printer, and worked at this trade for several years, buffeted by fortune from place to place. The mechanical drudgery, however, irked him. The lack of opportunity and ability to rise and to better his condition also disheartened and repelled him; and before he was twenty-one he abandoned the business of type-setting for an employment more suited to his tastes. He adopted the theatrical profession and entered on the stage, of which he had been an
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 amateur votary from his early youth. Their common dramatic aptitudes and aspirations were a strong bond of fellowship between him and his youngest brother, and they had a thousand times practised together at the art of acting, in private, before either made his appearance in public. This coincidence of talent and ambition between the brothers seems to reveal an inherited tendency. The local reputation of the elder, once clear and bright, has been almost utterly lost in the wide and brilliant fame of the younger. It is fitting that it be here snatched from oblivion, at least for a passing moment. For he was both a good man and a good actor, performing his part well alike on the scenic stage and on the real one; though in his case, as in that of most of his contemporaries, the merit was not of such pronounced and impressive relief as to survive in any legible character the obliterating waves of the half-century which has swept across it. Yet his accomplishments, force, and desert were sufficient to make him, in spite of early poverty and premature death, for several years the respected and successful manager of the leading theatre, first of Albany, afterwards of Philadelphia.
The following tribute was paid to him in one of the papers of his native city on the day of his burial:
"When we are awakened from the dreams of mimic life, so vividly portrayed by histrionic skill, to the fatal realities of life itself, the blow falls with double severity. Such was the effect on Monday evening, when, on the falling of the curtain at the Arch Street Theatre, after the first piece, Mr. Thayer stepped forward, announced the sudden death of Mr. William Forrest, the Manager, and requested the indulgent sympathy of the audience for the postponement of the remaining entertainments. A shock so sudden and so profound it has seldom been our lot to record. Engaged in his duties all the morning, it appeared but a moment since he had been among us, in the full enjoyment of health, when the hand of the unsparing destroyer struck him down. Mr. Forrest was a great and general favorite among his associates, to whom he was endeared by every feeling of kindness and affection. Few possessed a more placid or even disposition, and few won friends so fast and firmly. In his private relations he was equally estimable, and the loss of him as a son and as a brother will be long and severely felt."
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He was also spoken of in the same strain by the journals of Albany, one of them using these words: "Our citizens will regret to read of the death of Mr. William Forrest. He was known here not only as a manager of much taste and enterprise, but as an actor of conceded merit and reputation. He was also esteemed here, as in Philadelphia, by numerous acquaintances for his personal worth and social qualities. The tidings of his decease will be received with sorrow by all who knew him."
So, on the modest actor, manager, and man, after the short and well-meant scene of his quiet, checkered, not unsuccessful life, the curtain fell in swift and tragic close, leaving the mourners, who would often speak kindly of him, to go about the streets for a little while and then fade out like his memory.
The three daughters of the family—none of them ever marrying—lived to see their youngest brother at the height of his fame, and always shared freely in the comforts secured by his prosperity. They were proud of his talents and reputation, grateful for his loving generosity, devoted to his welfare. In his absence from home their correspondence was constantly maintained, and the only interruption their attachment knew was death. Henrietta lived to be sixty-five years old, dying of liver-complaint in 1863. The next, Caroline, died from an attack of apoplexy in 1869, at the age of sixty-seven. And the youngest, Eleanora, after suffering partial paralysis, died of cancer in 1871, being sixty-three years old.
No one among all our distinguished countrymen has been more thoroughly American than Edwin Forrest. From the beginning to the end of his career he was intensely American in his sympathies, his prejudices, his training, his enthusiasm for the flag and name of his country, his proud admiration for the democratic genius of its institutions, his faith in its political mission, his interest in its historic men, his fervent love of its national scenery and its national literature. He was also American in his exaggerated dislike and contempt for the aristocratic classes and monarchical usages of the Old World. He did not seem to see that there are good and evil in every existing system, and that the final perfection will be reached only by a process of mutual giving and taking, which must go on until the malign elements of each are expelled, the benign elements of the whole combined.
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In view of the concentrated Americanism of Forrest, it may seem singular that he was himself a child of foreign parentage, his father being Scotch, his mother German. But this fact, which at first appears strange, is really typical. Nothing could be more characteristic of our nationality, which is a composite of European nationalities transferred to these shores, and here mixed, modified, and developed under new conditions. The only original Americans are the barbaric tribes of Indians, fast perishing away, and never suggested to the thought of the civilized world by the word. The great settlements from which the American people have sprung were English, French, Dutch, and Spanish. To these four ethnic rivers were added a dark flood of slaves from Africa, and vast streams of emigration from Ireland and Germany, impregnated with lesser currents from Italy, Sweden, Portugal, Russia, and other countries, adding now portentous signal-waves from China and Japan.
The history of European emigration to America is, in one aspect, a tragedy; in another aspect, a romance. When we think of the hardships suffered, the ties sundered, the farewells spoken, the aching memories left behind, it is a colossal tragedy. When we think of the attractive conditions inviting ahead, the busy plans, the joyous hopes, the prophetic schemes and dreams of freedom, plenty, education, reunion with following friends and relatives, that have gilded the landscape awaiting them beyond the billows, it is a chronic romance. The collective experience in the exodus of the millions on millions of men, women, and children, who, under the goad of trials at home and the lure of blessings abroad, have forsaken Europe for America,—the laceration of affections torn from their familiar objects, the tears and wails of the separation, the dismal discomforts of the voyage, the perishing of thousands on the way, either drawn down the sepulchral mid-ocean or dashed on the rocks in sight of their haven, the long-drawn heart-break of exile, the tedious task of beginning life anew in a strange land,—and then the auspicious opening of the change, the rapid winning of an independence, the quick development of a home-feeling, the assuagement of old sorrows, the conquest of fresh joys and a fast-brightening prosperity broad enough to welcome all the sharers still pouring in endless streams across the sea,—the perception of all this makes
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 the narrative of American immigration at once one of the most pathetic and one of the most inspiring episodes in the history of humanity. This tale—as a complete account of the emigrant ships, the emigrant trains, the emigrant wagons, the clearings and villages and cities of the receding West, would reveal it—stand unique and solitary in the crowd of its peculiarities among all the records of popular removals and colonial settlements since the dispersion of the Aryan race, mysterious mother of the Indo-European nations, from its primeval seat in the bosom of Asia. All this suffering, all this hope, all this seething toil, has had its mission, still has its purpose, and will have its reward when the predestined effects of it are fully wrought out. Its providential object is to expedite the work of reconciling the divided races, nations, parties, classes, and sects of mankind. The down-trodden poor had groaned for ages under the oppressions of their lot, victims of political tyranny, religious bigotry, social ostracism, and their own ignorance. The traditions and usages of power and caste which surrounded them were so old, so intense, so unqualified, that they seemed hopelessly doomed to remain forever as they were. Then the Western World was discovered. The American Republic threw its boundless unappropriated territory and its impartial chance in the struggle of life open to all comers, with the great prizes of popular education, liberty of thought and speech, and universal equality before the law. The multitudes who flocked in were rescued from a social state where the hostile favoritisms organized and rooted in a remote past pressed on them with the fatality of an atmosphere, and were transferred to a state which offered them every condition and inducement to emancipate themselves from clannish prejudices, superstitions, and disabilities, to flow freely together in the unlimited sympathies of manhood, and form a type of character and civilization as cosmopolitan as their two bases,—charity and science. The significance, therefore, of the colonizing movement from the Old World to the New is the breaking up of the fatal power of transmitted routine, exclusive prerogative and caste, and the securing for the people of a condition inviting them to blend and co-operate on pure grounds of universal humanity. In spite of fears and threats, over all drawbacks, the experiment is triumphantly going on. The prophets who fore
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see the end already behold all the tears it has cost glittering with rainbows.
America being thus wholly peopled with immigrants and the descendants of immigrants, our very nationality consisting in a fresh and free composite made of the tributes from the worn and routinary nations of the other hemisphere, the distinctive glory and design of this last historic experiment of civilization residing in the fact that it presents an unprecedented opportunity for the representatives of all races, climes, classes, and creeds to get rid of their narrow and irritating peculiarities, to throw off the enslaving heritage imposed on them by the hostile traditions and unjust customs of their past, no impartial observer can fail to see the unreasonableness of that bitter prejudice against foreigners which has been so common among those of American birth. This prejudice has had periodical outbreaks in our politics under the name of Native Americanism. In its unreflective sweep it is not only irrational and cruel, but also a gross violation of the true principles of our government, which deal with nothing less than the common interests and truths of universal humanity. And yet, in its real cause and meaning, properly discriminated, it is perfectly natural in its origin, and of the utmost importance in its purport. It is not against foreigners, their unlimited welcome here, their free sharing in the privilege of the ballot and the power of office, that the cry should be raised. That would be to exemplify the very bigotry in ourselves against which we protest in others. It is only against the importation to our shores, and the obstinate and aggravating perpetuation here, of the local vices, the bad blood, the clannish hates, the separate and inflaming antagonisms of all sorts, which have been the chief sources of the sufferings of these people in the lands from which they came to us. In its partisan sense the motto, America for those of American birth, is absurdly indefensible. But the indoctrination of every American citizen, no matter where born or of what parentage, with the spirit of universal humanity is our supreme duty. Freedom from proscription and prejudice, a fair course and equal favor for all, an open field for thought, truth, progress,—this expresses the true spirit of the Republic. It is only against what is opposed to this that we should level our example, our argument, and our persuasion. The invitation our flag advertises to
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 all the world is, Come, share in the bounties of God, nature, and society on the basis of universal justice and good will, untrammelled by partial laws, unvexed by caste monopolies. Welcome to all; but, as they touch the strand, let them cast off and forget the distinguishing badges which would cause one portion to fear or hate, despise or tyrannize over, another portion. Not they who happened to be born here, but they who have the spirit of America, are true Americans.
The father and mother of Edwin Forrest were thoroughly Americanized, and taught him none of the special peculiarities of his Scottish or German ancestry. So far as his conscious training was concerned, in language, religion, social habits, he grew up the same as if his parentage had for repeated generations been American. This was so emphatically the case that all his life long he felt something of the Native American antipathy for foreigners, and cherished an exaggerated sympathy for many of the most pronounced American characteristics. Yet there never was any bigotry in his theoretical politics. His creed was always purely democratic; and so was the core of his soul. He was only superficially infected by the illogical prejudices around him. Whatever deviations he may have shown in occasional word or act, his own example, in his descent and in his character, yielded a striking illustration of the genuine relation which should exist between all the members of our nationality, from whatever land they may hail and whatever shibboleths may have been familiar to their lips. Namely, they should, as soon as possible, forget the quarrels of the past, and hold everything else subordinate to the supreme right of private liberty and the supreme duty of public loyalty, recognizing the true qualifications for American citizenship only in the virtues of American manhood, the American type of manhood being simply the common type liberalized and furthered by the free light and stimulus of republican institutions. Overlook it or violate it whoever may, such is the lesson of the facts before us. And it is a point of the extremest interest that, however much Forrest may sometimes have failed in his personal temper and prejudices to practise this lesson, the constantly emphasized and reiterated exemplification of it in his professional life constitutes his crowning glory and originality as an actor. He was distinctively the first and greatest democrat, as such, that
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 ever trod the stage. The one signal attribute of his playing was the lifted assertion of the American idea, the superiority of man to his accidents. He placed on the forefront of every one of his celebrated characters in blazing relief the defiant freedom and sovereignty of the individual man.
Thus an understanding of the ground traversed in the present chapter is necessary for the appreciation of his position and rank in the history of the theatre. Boldly rejecting the mechanical traditions of the stage, shaking off the artificial trammels of the established schools of his profession, he looked directly into his own mind and heart and directly forth upon nature, and, summoning up the passionate energies of his soul, struck out a style of acting which was powerful in its personal sincerity and truth, original in its main features, and, above all, democratic and American in its originality.
But though the parents of Edwin did not try to neutralize the influence of purely American circumstances of neighborhood and schooling for their child, they could not help transmitting the organic individual heritage of their respective nationalities in his very generation and development. The generic features and qualities of every one are stamped in his constitution from the historic soil and social climate and organized life of the country of the parents through whom he derives his being from the aboriginal Source of Being. Certain peculiar modes of acting and reacting on nature and things—modes derived from peculiarities of ancestral experience, natural scenery, social institutions, and other conditions of existence—constitute those different styles of humanity called races or nations. These peculiarities of constitution, temper, taste, conduct, looks, characterize in varying degrees all the individuals belonging to a country, making them Englishmen, Spaniards, Russians, Turks, or Chinese. These characteristics, drawn from what a whole people have in common, are transmitted by parents to their progeny and inwrought in their organic being by a law as unchangeable as destiny,—nay, by a law which is destiny. The law may, in some cases, baffle our scrutiny by the complexity of the elements in the problem, or it may be qualified by fresh conditions, but it is always there, working in every point of plasma, every fibril of nerve, every vibration of force. The law of heredity is obscured
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 or masked in several ways. First, the peculiarities of the two lines of transmitted ancestry, from father and from mother, may in their union neutralize each other, or supplement each other, or exaggerate each other, or combine to form new traits. Secondly, they may be modified by the reaction of the original personality of the new being, and also by the reaction of the new conditions in which he is placed. Still, the law is there, and works. It is at once the fixed fatality of nature and the free voice of God.
Edwin Forrest was fortunate in the national bequests of brain and blood or structural fitnesses and tendencies which he received from his fatherland and from his motherland. The distinctive national traits of the Scottish and of the German character, regarded on the favorable side, were signally exemplified in him. The traits of the former are courage, acuteness, thrift, tenacity, clannishness, and patriotism; of the latter, reasoning intelligence, poetic sentiment, honesty, personal freedom, capacity for systematic drill, and open sense of humanity. These two lines of prudential virtue and expansive sympathy were marked in his career. The attributes of weakness or vice that belonged to him were rather human than national. So the Caledonian and Teutonic currents that met in his American veins were an inheritance of goodness and strength.
Nor was he less fortunate in the bequeathal of strictly personal qualities from his individual parents. Those conditions of bodily and mental life, the offshoot of the conjoined being of father and mother, imprinted and inwoven and ever operative in all the globules of his blood and all the sources of his volition, were far above the average both in the physical power and in the moral rank they gave. His father was a tall, straight, sinewy man, who lived to his sixty-second year a life of hardship and care, without the aid of any particular knowledge of the laws of health. His mother was of an uncommonly strong, well-balanced, and healthy constitution, who bore seven children, worked hard, saw much trouble, but lived in equanimity to her seventy-fifth year. From the paternal side no special tendency to any disease is traceable; on the maternal side, only, through the grandfather, who was an inveterate imbiber of claret, that germ of the gout which ripened to such terrible mischief for him. In intellectual, moral, and religious endowments and habits, both parents were
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 of a superior order, remarked by all who knew them for sound sense, sterling virtue, unwearied industry, devout spirit and carriage. The good, strong, consecrated stock, both national and personal, they gave their boy, alike by generative transmission, by example, and by precept, was of inexpressible service to him. He never forgot it or lost it. It stood him in good stead in a thousand trying hours. Amidst the constant and intense temptations of his exposed professional life, it gave him superb victories over the worst of those vices to which hundreds of his fellows succumbed in disgraceful discomfiture and untimely death. It is true he yielded to follies and sins,—as, under such exposures, who would not?—but his sense of honor and his memory of his mother kept him from doing anything which would destroy his self-respect and give him a bad conscience. This inestimable boon he owed to the moral fibre of his birth and early training.
The thoughtful reader will not deem that the writer is making too much of these preliminary matters. Besides their intrinsic interest and value, they are vitally necessary for the full understanding of much that is to follow. In the formation of the character and the shaping of the career of any man the circumstance of supremest power is the ancestral spirits which report themselves in him from the past, and the organific influences of blood and nerve brought to bear on him in the mystic world of the womb previous to his entrance into this breathing theatre of humanity. The ignorance and the squeamishness prevalent in regard to the subject of the best raising of children are the causes of indescribable evils ramifying in all directions. It has been tabooed from the province of public study and teaching, although no other matter presents such pressing and sacred claims on universal attention. It cannot always continue to be so neglected or forced into the dark. The young giant, Social Science, so rapidly growing, will soon insist on the thorough investigation of it, and on the accordant organization in practice of the truths which shall be elicited. When by analysis, generalization, experiment, and all sorts of methods and tests, men shall have ransacked every other subject, it may be hoped, they will begin to apply a little study to the one subject of really paramount importance,—the breeding of their own species. When the same scientific care and skill, based on accumulated and sifted knowl
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edge, shall be devoted to this province as has already been exemplified with such surprising results in the improvement of the breeds of sheep, cows, horses, hens, and pigeons, still more amazing achievements may be confidently expected. The ranks of hopeless cripples, invalids, imbeciles, idlers, and criminals will cease to be recruited. The rate of births may perhaps be reduced to one-fourth of what it now is, with a commensurate elevation of the condition of society by the weeding out of the perishing and dangerous classes. And the rate of infant mortality may be reduced to one per cent. of its present murderous average. The regeneration of the world will be secured by the perfecting of its generation.
These ideas were familiar to Forrest. He often spoke of them, and wondered they were so slow to win the notice they deserved. For the hypocrisy or prudery which affected to regard them as indelicate and to be shunned in polite speech, he expressed contempt. In his soul the chord of ancestral lineage which bound his being with a vital line running through all foregone generations of men up to the Author of men, was, as he felt it, exceptionally intense and sacred. And surely the whole subject of our consanguinity in time and space is, to every right thinker, as full of poetic attraction and religious awe on one side as it is of scientific interest and social importance on the other.
Each of us has two parents, four grandparents, eight great-grandparents, sixteen great-great-grandparents. In every receding generation the number doubles, from thirty-two to sixty-four, then to one hundred and twenty-eight, and so on; so that at the twentieth remove, omitting the factor of intermarriages, one has over a million ancestors! So many threads of nerve thrilling into him out of the dark past! So many invisible rivulets of blood tributary to the ocean of his heart, the collective experiences of all of them latently reported in his structure! His physiological mould and type, his mental biases and passional drifts, his longevity, and other prospective experiences and fate, are the resultant of these combined contributions modified by his own choice and new circumstances. What can be conceived more solemnly impressive, or to us morally more sublime and momentous, than this picture of an immortal personality, isolated in his own responsible thought amidst the universe, but surrounded by the mys
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terious ranks of his ancestry, all connected with him by spiritual ligaments which lengthen and multiply, but never break, as he tracks them, further and further, through the annals of time, through prehistoric ages, incapable of solution or pause till his faith apprehends the beginning of their tremulous lines in the creative fiat of God!
Indulge in whatever theories we may, whether of continuous development or of sudden creation, it is through our parents that we receive our being. It is through our ancestry, spreading ultimately back to the limits of the human race, that each of us descends from God. By them it is that the Creator creates us. Well may the great Asiatic races, the soft and contemplative Brahmins, the child-like Chinese, the pure and thoughtful Parsees, worship their unknown Maker in forms of reverential remembrance and adoration paid to their known ancestors, gathering their relics in dedicated tombs or temples, cherishing their names and examples and precepts with fond devotion, celebrating pensive and glad festivals in their honor, preparing, around their pious offerings of fruits and flowers, little seats of grass, in a circle, for the pleased guardian spirits of their recalled fathers and mothers invisibly to occupy. Let not the reckless spirit of Young America, absorbed in the chase of material gain, and irreverent of everything but sensuous good, call it all a superstition and a folly. There is truth in it, too, and a hallowing touch of the universal natural religion of humanity.
America, in her hasty and incompetent contempt for the dotage, fails to appropriate the wisdom of the Orient. More of their humility, leisure, meditation, reverence, aspiration, mystic depth of intuition, will do us as much good as more of our science, ingenuity, independence, and enterprise will do them. The American people, in their deliverance from the entrammelling conditions of the over-governed Old World, and their exciting naturalization on the virgin continent of the West, have, to some extent, erred in affixing their scorn and their respect to the wrong objects. In repudiating excessive or blind loyalty to titular superiors and false authority, they have lost too much of the proper loyalty to real superiors and just authority. They are too much inclined to be contented with respectability and the average standard, instead of aspiring to perfection by the divine standard.
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 They show too much deference to public opinion, and are too eagerly drawn after the vulgar prizes of public pursuit,—money and social position,—to the comparative neglect of personal reflection and culture, personal honor, and detachment in a self-sustaining insight of principles. They think too subserviently of what is established, powerful, fashionable,—the very vice from which the founders of the country fled hither. They think too meanly and haltingly of the truth and good which are not yet established and fashionable, but ought to be so,—thus turning their backs on the very virtue which heaven and earth command them in especial to cultivate, namely, the virtue of an unflinching spirit of progress in obedience to whatever is right and desirable as against whatever wrongfully continues to govern. The best critics from abroad, and the wisest observers at home, agree that the most distinctive vice in the American character is described by the terms complacent rashness and assumption, crude impertinence, disrespect to age, irreverence towards parents, contempt for whatever does not belong to itself. This rampant democratic royalty in everybody has proved sadly detrimental to that spirit of modesty and docility which, however set against oppression and falsehood, is profoundly appreciative of everything sacred or useful and sits with veneration at the feet of the past to garner up its treasures with gratitude. The American who improves instead of abusing his national privileges will maintain his private convictions and not bend his knee slavishly to public opinion, but he will treat the feelings of others with tenderness, bow to all just authority, and reverently uncover his heart before everything that he sees to be really sacred.
On these points, it will be seen in the subsequent pages, the subject of the present biography, as a boldly-pronounced American citizen, was in most respects a good example. If occasionally, in some things, he practised the American vice,—self-will, unconscious bigotry intrenched in a shedding conceit,—he prevailingly exemplified the American virtue,—tolerance, frankness, generosity, a sympathetic forbearance in the presence of what was venerable and dear to others, although it was not so to him. While withholding his homage from merely conventional sanctities, he never scoffed at them; and he always instinctively worshipped those intrinsic sanctities which carry their divine
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 credentials in their own nature. The filial and fraternal spirit in particular was very strong in him, and bore rich fruits in his life and conduct.
The conspicuous relative decay of the filial and fraternal virtues, or weakening of the family tie, among the American people, the precocious development and self-assertion of their children, wear an evil aspect, and certainly are not charming. Yet they may be inevitable phases in the evolution of the final state of society. They may distinguish a transitional stage through which all countries will have to pass, America being merely in the front. In ancient life the political and social unit was the family. The whole family was held strictly responsible for the deeds of each member of it. The drift marked by democracy is to make the individual the ultimate unit in place of the family, legally clearing each person from his consanguineous entanglements, and holding him responsible solely for his own deeds in relation to entire society. The movement towards individuality is disintegrating; but, when completed, it may, by a terminal conversion of opposites, play into a more intimate fellowship and harmony of the whole than has ever yet been realized on earth. Thus it is not impossible that the narrower and intenser domestic bonds may be giving way simply before the extruding growth of wider and grander bonds, the particular yielding merely as the universal advances. If the destiny of the future be some form of social unity, some public solidarity of sympathies and interests in which all shall mutually identify themselves with one another, then the temporary irreverences and insurgences of a democratic régime may have their providential purpose and their abundant compensation in that final harmony of co-operative freedom and obedience to which they are preparing the way out of priestly and monarchical régimes.
Either this is the truth, that the youthful insubordination and premature complacency, the rarity of generous friendships and the commonness of sinister rivalries, which mark our time and land are necessary accompaniments of the passage from individual loyalties to collective loyalties, from an antagonistic to a communistic civilization, or else our republicanism is but the repetition of a stale experiment, doomed to renewed failure. There are political horoscopists who predict the subversion of
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 the American Republic and its replacement by a monarchy. Thickening corruption and strife between two hostile parties over a vast intermediate stratum of indifference prompt the observer to such a conclusion. But a more auspicious faith is that these ills are to be overruled for good. It is more likely that both republicanism and monarchy, in their purest forms, are to vanish in behalf of a third, as yet scarcely known, form of government, which will give the final solution to the long-vexed problem, namely, government by scientific commissions which will know no prejudice, but represent all in the spirit of justice.
The exact knowledge, co-operative power, and disciplined skill chiefly exemplified hitherto in war, or in great business enterprises conducted in the exclusive interests of their supporters against all others,—this combination, universalized and put on a basis of disinterestedness, seeking the good of an entire nation or the entire world, will furnish the true form of government now wanted. For no government of the many by the few in the spirit of will, whether that will represents the minority or the majority, can be permanent. The only everlasting or truly divine government must be one free from all will except the will of God, one which shall guide in the spirit of science by demonstrated laws of truth and right, representing the harmonized good of the whole.
In view of such a possible result, the trustful American, comparing his people with Asiatics or with Europeans, can regard without fear the apparent change of certain forms of virtue into correlative forms of vice; because he holds that this is but a transient disentwining of the moral and religious tendrils from around smaller and more selfish objects in preparation for their permanent re-entwining around greater and more disinterested ones, when private families shall dissolve into a universal family, or their separate interests be conformed to its collective interests. All humanity is the family of God, and perhaps the historic selfishness of the lesser families may crumble into individualities in order to re-combine in the universal welfare of this.
Meanwhile, it may well be maintained that the repulsive swagger of self-assertion sometimes seen here is a less evil than the degrading servility and stagnant spirit of caste often seen elsewhere. The desideratum is to construct out of the alienated races
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 and classes of men here thrown together, jarring with their distinctions and prejudices, yet under conditions of unprecedented favorableness, a new type of character, carrying in its freed and sympathetic intelligence all the vital and spiritual traditions of humanity. There are but two methods to this end: one, the intermingling of the varieties in generative descent; the other, the personal assimilation of contrasting experiences and qualities by mutual sympathetic interpretation and assumption of them. This latter process is the very process and business of the dramatic art. The true player is the most detached, versatile, imaginative, and emotional style of man, most capable of understanding, feeling with, and reproducing all other styles, best fitted, therefore, to mediate between hostile clans and creeds and reconcile the dissonant parts of society and the race in its final cosmopolite harmony.
Consequently, among the public agencies of culture destined to educate the American people out of their defects and faults into a complete accordant manhood—if, as is fondly hoped, that happy destiny be reserved for them—the dramatic art will have an unparalleled place of honor assigned to it. The dogmatic Church, so busy in toothlessly mumbling the formulas of an extinct faith that it loses sight of the living truths of God in nature and society, will be heeded less and less as it slowly dies its double death in drivel of words and drivel of ceremonies. But the plastic Stage, clearing itself of its abuses and carelessness, and receiving a new inspiration at once religious in its sacred earnestness and artistic in its free range of recreative play, will become more and more influential as it learns to exemplify the various ideals of human nature and human life set off by their graded foils, and presents the gravest teachings disguised in the finest amusements.
In the democratic idea, every man is called on to be a priest and a king unto God. Church and State, in all their forms and disguises, have sought to monopolize those august rôles for a few; but the Theatre, in the examples of its great actors, has instinctively sought to fling their secrets open to the whole world; and, when fully enlightened by the Academy, it will clearly teach what it has thus far only obscurely hinted. It will reveal the hidden secrets of power and rank, the just arts of sway, and
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 the iniquitous artifices of despotism. And it will assert the indefeasible claim of every man, so far as he wins personal fitness and desert, to have open before him a free passage through all the spheres and heights of social humanity. The greatest player is the one who can most perfectly represent the largest scale of characters, keeping each in its exact truth and grade, yet passing freely through them all. That, too, is the moral ground and essence of democracy, whose basis is thus the same as that of the dramatic art,—namely, a free and intelligent sympathy giving men the royal freedom of mankind by right of eminent domain. The priesthood and kingship of man are universal in kind, but endlessly varied in degree, no two men on earth nor no two angels in heaven having such a monotonous uniformity that they cannot be discriminated. Each one has an original stamp and relish of native personality. The law of infinite perfection, even in liberty itself, is perfect subordination in the infinite degrees of superiority.
These opposed and balancing truths found a magnificent impersonation on the stage in Edwin Forrest, and made him pre-eminently the representative American actor. All his great parts set in emphatic relief the intrinsic sovereignty of the individual man, the ideal of a free manhood superior to all artificial distinctions or circumstances. He showed man as inherent king of himself, and also relative king over others in proportion to his true superiority in worth and weight. When Tell confronted Gessler, or Rolla appeared with the Inca, or Spartacus stood before the Emperor, or Cade defied the King, or Metamora scorned the Englishman, the titular monarch was nothing in the tremendous presence of the authentic hero. Genuine virtue, power, and nobleness took the crown and sceptre away from empty prescription. This was grand, and is the lesson the American people need to learn. It enthrones the truth, while repudiating the error, of vulgar democracy. That error would interpret the doctrine of equal rights into a flat and dead uniformity, a stagnant level of similarities; but that truth affirms an endless variety of degrees with a boundless liberty around all, each free to fit himself for all the privileges of human nature according to his ability, and entitled to enjoy those privileges in proportion to the fitness he attains. The principle of order, rank, authority, hierarchy, is as omnipotent and sacred in genuine democracy as
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 it is in nature or the government of God. The American idea, as against the Asiatic and European, would not destroy the principle of precedence, but would make that principle the intrinsic force and merit of the individual, instead of any historic or artificial prerogative. It asserts that there must be no horizontal caste or stratum in society to prevent the vertical any more than the level circulation of the political units. It declares that there shall be no despotic fixtures reserving the most desirable and authoritative places for any arbitrary sets of persons, but that there shall be divine liberty for the ablest and best to gravitate by divine right to the highest places. That is the American idea purified and completed. That, also, is the central lesson of the dramatic art in its crowning triumphs on the popular stage. And in the half-inspired, half-conscious representation of it lay the commanding originality of Edwin Forrest, our first national tragedian.
The foregoing thoughts put us in possession of the data and place us at the point of view for an intelligent and interested survey of the field before us. And we will now proceed to the proper narrative of the biographic details, and to the critical delineation of the professional features suggested by the title of our work.

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