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 When Edwin was nine years old, he was thin, pale, and had a slight forward stoop of the chest and shoulders. He was full of fire, courage, impulsive force, but had a quick pulse, a nervous habit, a sensitive brain and skin. The tears came easily to his eyes, and under severe exertion his endurance quickly gave out. At that time he seemed a fair candidate for consumption and an early grave. His father is known, on several occasions, to have expressed fears that he should not be able to raise him.
A fortunate occurrence set the boy at work just at the right time and in the right direction. Wherever a Circus travels through the country, its performances take powerful effect on the impressible sympathies of energetic and ambitious youths. As it departs, it often leaves behind it a line of emulous lads, in mimic repetition of its scenes, climbing ropes, leaping bars, walking on their hands, standing on their heads, throwing somersaults, or posturing, balancing, and wrestling. Such an experience befell Edwin, and his physical improvement under it was rapid. It deepened his breathing, invigorated the circulation of his blood, and straightened him up, bringing out his breast and throwing back his shoulders. And in his seventeenth year, the period which we have now reached, he was as fine a specimen of a manly youth as one might wish to see. He had a free, open bearing, with steadily-confronting eyes, and a clear, deep voice. He had never been bashful; neither was he ever impudent or shameless. He was at once self-possessed and modest, combining an air of sincerity and justice with an expression of democratic independence. Such was the result, in his outward appearance, of his character, his parental inheritance and training, his dramatic practice, and his gymnastic exercises.
Accordingly, when, early in the September of 1822, it was
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 announced that the proprietors of the three theatres at Pittsburg, Lexington, and Cincinnati had come to Philadelphia for the purpose of engaging a company to perform alternately in those cities, and young Forrest, depressed and impatient from the failure of his previous attempts to secure a regular engagement, made personal application to manager Jones, that gentleman was so much pleased with his words and his bearing that he at once struck a bargain with him. The agreement was that for a compensation of eight dollars a week he should play, without a question, whatever parts he was cast in, no matter how high or how low the parts were. He was willing now, despite his precocious starring experiences, to take this humble position and hold himself ready for anything at the beck and call of his superior, because he had come keenly to feel how little he knew and how much he had to learn. And his sound sense, with the good advice he had received, taught him that there offered no other way so thoroughly and rapidly to master his profession as by submitting to a regular drill in the miscellaneous parts of the working stage, from top to bottom. He saw his path to the dramatic throne through the steps of a docile and patient apprenticeship.
It was always a characteristic of him that he was unwilling to utter words while ignorant of their meaning. He studied what he was to speak, that he might speak it with intelligence and propriety. Whether right or wrong, he would, as a rule, always know what he meant to do, and why and how. In illustration of this teachable spirit an incident may be adduced which he ever gratefully remembered as one of the most influential in his life.
When he was but fourteen, he was one evening in front of one of the Philadelphia theatres, when his attention was fixed on two large statues, or mythological figures, each carved from a single block of wood, pedestal and all, placed in niches at each side of the entrance. Under them were inscribed the names Thalia and Melpomene. "Who are Thallea and Melpomeen?" he asked of an elder comrade with whom he was wont to practise histrionics in the Thespian Club. "Oh, I don't know; a couple of Grecian queens, I guess," was the reply. A gentleman, handsomely dressed, with a benignant face and graceful mien, who had overheard the question and the answer, stepped
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 forward, took Edwin by the hand, and said, "My lad, these figures, whose names you have not pronounced correctly, represent two characters in the old Greek mythology. This one, with the mask and the mirror, is Thalia, the Muse of Comedy. That one, with the dagger and the bowl, is Melpomene, the Muse of Tragedy. They are appropriately painted here, because the theatre is the home of the drama, where both comedies and tragedies are performed. Now, my boy, if you like to learn, there is a book, which you can get at any book-store, called Walker's Classical Pronouncing Dictionary, to which on all such occasions you can refer and find just what you want to know." It was a beautiful action. And it fell on good soil. Edwin bought the volume, and he never ceased to practise the lesson or to be thankful to him who gave it, and on whose unknown head, even to the end of life, his grateful heart showered benedictions. When, many years later, that theatre was taken down, Forrest, in memory of the incident above related, had the two statues purchased for him, intending to set them up in his own private theatre.
Edwin was an affectionate boy, who won affection from others notwithstanding his somewhat reckless spirit of adventure, frequent coarseness of speech, and violence of temper. He was sympathetic, as dramatic genius perforce must be, quick in intelligence, keen and eager in observation, and of an honest manner and make throughout. He was throbbing with hope and aspiration before the new prospect opened to him as he went around to say farewell to those he loved, his favorite companions among the amateur Thespians, and his benefactors. As he took the hand of one after another and said good-bye, the cuff of his sleeve repeatedly went to his eyes, and he felt those bitter twinges of pain familiar to boyish bosoms on such partings in all generations and all over the world. He went to the tannery, where, on the old stone table, his declamations as a proud and happy child had been applauded by Lorman and his fellow-workmen. He visited the tomb of his father, and the house of his kind old pastor. Then came the last and severest trial of his fortitude, the taking leave of his sisters, and, above all, of his mother, who was always enshrined in his inmost soul as an object of the most tender and sacred love. He girded himself up and got through with it, he hardly knew how.
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One small and humble trunk held all his effects,—a very scant wardrobe, a few trifling keepsakes, a Bible the gift of his mother, an edition of Shakspeare in one cheap volume, Walker's Classical Pronouncing Dictionary, and a little collection of plays in pamphlet form. Joining the company which Collins and Jones had gathered, consisting of about a dozen persons, male and female, they regarded one another with mutual interest; and, with that intuitive reading of character which their professional art bestows, they in an amazingly short time were intimately acquainted, and quite prepared to share adventures, confidences, and lives. Besides Collins and Jones, there were Groshorn, Scott, Eberle, leader of the orchestra, Lucas, scene-painter, Henderson, stage manager, Davis, Mrs. Pelby, Mrs. Riddle, Miss Fenton, Miss Sallie Riddle, and Miss Eliza Riddle. Several of these not only had varied and ripe experience of the stage, but were also highly distinguished for their talents and accomplishments. This was especially the case with Mrs. Pelby and Mrs. Riddle.
The magnetic personality, the inexperienced youth, the attractive ingenuousness, and the enthusiastic ambition of Forrest made him at once a prominent object of attention in the company, all of whom were ready to give him such instructions and aids as were in their power. But, above all the rest, to the constant generous kindness and teaching of Mrs. Riddle he always expressed himself as deeply indebted for services rendered at the most critical period of his life, and whose record remained as fresh in his latest memory as their results were indelible in his being.
About the middle of October they began playing in Pittsburg, in a building so ruinous and dilapidated that on rainy nights the audience in the pit held up their umbrellas to screen themselves from the leakings through the roof. The first performance was Douglas, Forrest sustaining the part of Young Norval with much applause. In the course of the season here he played many characters, in tragedy, comedy, farce, and ballet. In grappling with these subordinate parts he afterwards said he could distinctly remember that he often felt ashamed to find how ignorant he was, and was almost appalled at the immense task before him in becoming the actor he wished to be. But the progress he felt he
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 was making, combined with the unstinted praise he received, kept his spirits at a high point.
The following letter, dated Pittsburg, October 10th, 1822, is the earliest letter from him to his mother found among his papers after his death:
"Dear Mother,—I arrived here yesterday at about eleven o'clock, and am much pleased with the place and its inhabitants. I was quite out of patience riding so long in the stage over such tremendous mountains, but was greatly delighted, on reaching the summit of them, to view the surrounding country,—so vast and varied a landscape.
"Pittsburg is three hundred miles from Philadelphia. It is a sort of London in miniature, very black and smoky. The Alleghany River and Mountains surround it. The theatre is very old.
"This, you know, is the first time I have ever been away from you. I have felt many qualms of homesickness, and I miss you, dear, dear mother, more than words can give out. Has William gone to Petersburg? Furnish me with every particular, especially how our Tid is, and whether she reads with the yard-stick. Give me an account, too, of my Grandma, and of my beautiful Sister. The long ride in the stage has made my hurdies so callous that they would ward off a cannon-ball.
"Give my respects to all my friends, particularly to Philip. Inform me also, if you can, how the Tivoli Garden gets on. Write as early as possible, and pray pay the postage, as I am out of funds. I expect the managers by the next stage. Mr. Hughes, formerly of the Walnut Street Theatre, is here. I find him a perfect gentleman.
"Your affectionate son,
"Edwin Forrest."
In a short time the company collected their properties and took passage on the Ohio River in a flat-boat for Maysville, Kentucky. They floated lazily along for five days and nights, in delightful weather, through lovely scenery new to the most of them, filling the time with stories, games, and jokes,—a happy set, careless, healthy, and as gay and free as the ripples of the
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 stream that glanced around them. They played at Maysville a few evenings with excellent success, greatly delighting the rude Kentuckians, who thronged in from miles around.
Departing thence, they journeyed to Lexington, then the most important town in the State, where they were encouraged to make a considerable tarry, as they found a nice theatre, good patronage, and an uncommonly intelligent auditory. The Transylvania University was here, under the presidency of the celebrated Horace Holley. Many of the teachers and pupils of the University attended the performances night after night. Forrest was looked on as a lad of extreme promise. He made many friends among the students. One of these friendships in particular, that formed with young James Taylor, son of a wealthy planter of Newport, was kept unbroken to the end of his life.
In 1870, Mr. William D. Gallagher, an old and dear friend of Mr. Forrest, visited Col. Taylor at his estate in Newport. Taylor gave him many pleasing reminiscences of his early days and his romantic friendship with the young actor, then so world-famous. He said that while at Lexington he one night invited Forrest to his hotel. He acceded, without waiting to change his costume as Young Norval. He spent the night with him, sharing his bed, and breakfasted with him the next morning. After breakfast, as he went to his own quarters in another street, the boys, attracted by his theatrical dress, followed him with shouts and cheers.
President Holley was a man of very extraordinary oratorical power. He was really a man of genius, his freedom of thought and his æsthetic culture far in advance of his time. He had a great fame in his day, but, leaving no visible work behind him, his name is now but a faded tradition. He was so much struck by the performances of Forrest that he generously sought him out and held several long interviews with him, in which, with a masterly power which profoundly impressed his youthful listener, he unfolded his views of art and of life and urged him to cherish noble aspirations in the profession he had chosen. This contact with the veteran preacher was one of the moulding points in the career of the player. Such acts of condescension and disinterestedness—or perhaps it is juster to call them acts of love and duty—are charming and are divinely encouraging. There are
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 more of them in the world than we think, though certainly there are far fewer of them than there ought to be. The record of each, while delightful to contemplate, is a stimulus to produce others.
Holley urged Forrest to curb his taste for comic and farcical parts and as soon as possible to cease appearing in such characters. He strove to impress on him a deeper sense of his fitness for the highest walks of tragedy, and explained to him most eloquently the noble qualities the enactment of such parts both required and cultivated in the performer, as well as the valuable lessons they taught to the spectator. He also dwelt at length on the true principle of the dramatic art, which he maintained to be not merely to hold the mirror up to crude nature, but to give a choice and refined presentation of the truth. Nature, he said, is reality, but art is ideality. The actor is not to reflect all the direct and unrelieved facts of nature, but to present a selective and softened or intensified reflection of them. Art plays the tune of nature, he held, but with variations. He uttered these and other thoughts with such remarkable grace and precision that Forrest said the conversation made an epoch in his mind, although he differed from him in opinion, then and always holding that the purpose of acting was to show the exact truth of nature. Holley was right; and it is notable that his youthful auditor in rejecting the view he advocated accurately marked his own central defect not less than his most conspicuous merit as an actor.
Closing their season at Lexington, February 22d, 1823, the company started across the country for Cincinnati, the women with the theatrical paraphernalia in covered wagons, the men on horseback. Their good humor and abundant faculty for finding or making enjoyment in everything stood them in hand during the journey, which their rude accommodations and the wintry weather would otherwise have made cheerless enough. They opened in Cincinnati, in the old Columbia Street Theatre, on the evening of March 6th, 1823. The play was The Soldier's Daughter. Forrest, who lacked just three days of being seventeen years old, was assigned the humble part of Malfort, a serious walking gentleman. His range of casts during this season was extremely varied, reaching from the heights of dire tragedy
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 to the level of ridiculous pantomime. He danced in the then popular ballet of Little Red Riding-Hood. He often sang comic songs between the plays. Eberle, who was a good violinist, on one occasion appeared as an old broken soldier with a wooden leg and a fiddle, accompanied by Forrest as his daughter in a ragged female dress. The father fiddled, the daughter sang with laughable pathos,—
"Oh, cruel was my parients, as tored my love from me;
And cruel was the great big ship as tooked him off to sea;
And cruel was the capitaine and the boswain and the men,
As didn't care a fardin if we never met agen."
The performance was encored so warmly that it was repeated many successive nights. He also played Corinthian Tom in the extravaganza of Tom and Jerry, Lubin in the Wandering Boys of Switzerland, and Blaize in the Forest of Bondy, or the Dog of Montargis. In the last character he sang this song:
"Bondy's forest,—full of leaves;
Bondy's forest,—full of thieves;
They hold your bridle, take your cash,
And then they give your throat a gash.
Sing la, la, la, la, la."
At this time he had a trained dog, who knew as much as a great many men. He was strongly attached to this dog, who appeared on the stage with him in the Forest of Bondy and acted his part with striking effect. He was a frisky and mischievous creature. He occupied the same room with Edwin; and one morning he took advantage of the leisure his habits as an early riser gave him to gnaw and tear in pieces one of his master's only pair of boots. The poor actor was in a dilemma. He had no money and no credit. In his wrath he thought of whipping the dog. But that would boot nothing. The innocent creature knew no better. So he pretended to have a sore foot, put a bandage on it, borrowed an old slipper, and hobbled about until his wages fell due and enabled him to buy a pair of shoes.
In contrast with the above-named comic casts, Forrest took the second parts to the Damon, Brutus, and Virginius of the stars
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 Pelby and Pemberton, and at his own benefit played Richard the Third.
Without making a great sensation or achieving any brilliant success, he was decidedly popular. Sol Smith and Moses Dawson, editors of the two Cincinnati newspapers at that time, both praised him highly and prophesied his future eminence. Moses Dawson—a leading Democrat of the West, the first to raise the political banner inscribed with the name of Andrew Jackson, and who is said to have died of joy at the triumph of his party in the Presidential election of 1844—wrote the earliest earnest and studious criticisms ever composed on the acting of Forrest. He carefully noted all the points and peculiarities of the youthful performer, honestly stated his defects and faults, generously signalized his excellences, and made judicious suggestions for his profit. His candid and thoughtful words were of great service to the boy, and were never forgotten by the man.
A specimen from one of these articles will be of interest: "Mr. Forrest has a finely-formed and expressive countenance, expressing all the passions with marvellous exactness and power, and he looks the character of Richard much better than could be expected from a person of his years. He assumes a stately majesty of demeanor, passes suddenly to wheedling hypocrisy, and then returns to the haughty strut of towering ambition, with a facility which sufficiently evidence that he has not only deeply studied but also well understood the immortal bard. The scene with Lady Ann appeared to us unique, and superior to everything we have ever seen, not excepting Kemble or Cooke. In the soliloquies he uttered the sentiments as if they had arisen in his mind in that regular succession, and we never once caught his eye wandering towards the audience. Of the tent scene we do not hesitate to say that it was a very superior piece of acting. Horror and despair were never more forcibly represented. We consider Mr. Forrest's natural talents of the highest grade, and we hope his good sense will prevent him from being so intoxicated with success as to neglect study and industry. We are willing to render to youthful talent a full meed of praise; but while we applaud, we would caution. Applause should not be received as a reward, but as an incentive to still further exertion to deserve it."
During his first engagement in Cincinnati, Forrest boarded
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 with widow Bryson, on Main Street. Almost half a century afterwards, William D. Gallagher sought this excellent woman out, and obtained from her some very interesting reminiscences. It seems that General Harrison, who was subsequently President of the United States, came to Mrs. Bryson one day and asked her to do him the favor to take as a boarder a young man named Edwin Forrest, who was then playing at one of the theatres. The General said he feared, if the youth boarded with the other players, he would form bad habits. He wished to guard him from this, as he considered him a young man of extraordinary ability, and destined to excel in his profession. She assented. She said he was at that time a beautiful boy, with deep and very dark brown eyes, a complexion of marble clearness mantling with blood, and a graceful, sinewy form. He once made her very angry by an insulting remark concerning one of the female boarders, whose conduct did not suit his ideas of propriety. Mrs. Bryson declared that she would not have such language used at her table. He replied that of course he did not apply it to her. But she could not forget, and sent for General Harrison, and related the matter to him. He brought Edwin before her. The youth hung down his head. "Poor fellow!" added the old lady, "it has been a long time since then. Forty-six or seven years. Yet I can plainly see him standing there now!" Eying him sternly, the General said, "Sir, the father of this lady was a Revolutionary soldier; her husband was one of my trusty officers in the late war; and she is a lady whom I highly esteem. When I introduced you into her family, I did not suppose you would treat her with disrespect; and I now ask you to make her a humble apology." Edwin raised his head and said, "General, I did make a severe remark concerning a particular person whom Mrs. Bryson thinks she knows, but does not. It was an unguarded act. I am very sorry for it, and ask her a thousand pardons. I assure you, madam, I would not, under any circumstances, use words to hurt your feelings." He then turned and made a humble excuse to Harrison, who reprimanded him with severity. It did him good; it was a lesson he never forgot. But Mrs. Bryson confessed that she learned soon after that he was right in what he had said about the woman.
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One Sunday evening there came up a dreadful thunder-storm. As the thunders crashed and rattled, the frightened women, with Mrs. Bryson at their head, rushed into Edwin's room. He went to the window, raised it, took his sword and waved it out. When the electric flashes broke, it looked as if the lightnings were dancing on the point of his sword. The women fled out of his room with even greater terror than they had come into it, and he laughed heartily to see them scamper.
Gallagher was present at an interview of Mrs. Bryson and her daughter with Mr. Forrest in 1869, the first time they had met for forty-six years. Although the daughter, Mrs. Kemp, was but a little girl when they parted, he recognized her at the first glance. They spent a long time in unrestrained enjoyment, talking over the events of the old times as if they were things that had occurred but a few days previously. Mrs. Bryson exclaimed, "Oh, Edwin Forrest, I can scarcely realize it when I look at you and think what a beautiful boy you were when we last met, and now see you such a great, heavy man, and getting into age, too!"
At the end of the winter, Collins and Jones found their enterprise a pecuniary failure. They incontinently shut up the theatre and turned the whole company out to shift for themselves as best they could. These poor children of Thespis were in a pitiful plight. Without money, without employment or prospects, what could they do? About a dozen of them, including Forrest, Mrs. Riddle, and her two daughters, determined to extemporize a vagrant company, travel into the country, and try their fortune from town to town. Their action was as prompt as their pluck was good and their means small. With a couple of rickety wagons and two dreadfully thin old horses, they started off for Hamilton, most of them on foot. It is interesting to contemplate the little band of strolling players as they thus set out on their adventures. On their journey they scrutinized many a passing itinerant unlike themselves, laughed and sang in jovial liberty, while the birds sang around them by day and the stars twinkled over their heads by night. If there were hardships in it, tough and scanty fare, rude conditions, weary trudges, harsh treatment, wretched patronage, there were also in it rich experiences of life at first hand, a rough relish, a free existence in the
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 open air, and all the traditional associations linking them to the strollers of other times and lands, wandering minstrels, beggars, apprentices, gypsies, and those travelling groups of actors who used to perform in the yards of inns or the halls of baronial castles, and a specimen of whom found a so much better than lenten entertainment from the hands of Hamlet at Elsinore.
After performing at Hamilton for eight or ten nights, in the second story of a venerable barn, with more applause than profit, they went to Lebanon. An interesting reminiscence of this time is given by the following fac-simile of a note afterwards redeemed by its signer, and found carefully preserved among his papers at his death:
Hamilton August 6th 1823
Due Wm. Cooper or order one
dollar & fifty cents for Value Recd
August 6th 1823—
Edwin Forrest
They met little encouragement at Lebanon, and proceeded to Dayton, where they had still poorer success. In fact, their funds and their hopes gave out together, and they agreed to disperse. Forrest had not one cent in his pocket. He started on foot for Cincinnati, a distance of about forty miles. Journeying along on the bank of the Big Miami River, he spied a canoe on the other shore. How much easier it would be to float than to walk! He stripped, plunged, and swam. As soon as he was near enough to see that the boat was chained and locked, the owner of it appeared and pointed a gun at him. He made back
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ward strokes to his clothes, and resumed his plod. It was evening when he reached Cincinnati, pretty well fagged out. Some of his acquaintances met him in the street, said an amateur club were that night to play the farce of Miss in her Teens across the river at Newport, that one of the fellows was drunk, and asked him if he would fill the vacancy. He consented to do it for five dollars. They agreed to give that price, and he went and did it. The excessive fatigue probably made it the hardest-earned, as it was the sorest-needed, five dollars he ever received. It nearly exhausted the proceeds of the performance.
In a short time the scattered strollers rejoined their forces at Louisville to try one more experiment. They succeeded moderately well. But Archibald Woodruff, keeper of the Globe Inn in Cincinnati, had fitted up a hasty and cheap structure adjoining his tavern, and christened it the Globe Theatre. He invited the Louisville company to come and open it. They did so on the evening of June 2d, 1823, with Douglas, Forrest as Norval. June 4th they gave the play of The Iron Chest, Forrest as Sir Edward Mortimer, Mrs. Riddle as Lady Helen. On subsequent nights he sustained among other characters those of George Barnwell, Octavian in The Mountaineers, Jaffier in Venice Preserved, and Richard the Third, besides several parts in low comedy.
But perhaps the most surprising fact connected with this portion of his career is that he was the first actor who ever represented on the stage the Southern plantation negro with all his peculiarities of dress, gait, accent, dialect, and manners. This he did ten years before T. D. Rice, usually denominated the originator of the Ethiopian drama, made his début at the Bowery in the character of Jim Crow. Rice deserves his fame, for, though preceded first by Forrest, and then in a more systematic fashion by George W. Dixon, he was the man who really popularized the burnt-cork and burlesque minstrelsy and made it the institution it became.
The fortunes of the Globe were in such a state that the establishment was on the point of breaking up, when Sol Smith hired it for one night. He brought out three pieces, the comedy of Modern Fashions, a farce entitled The Tailor in Distress, and the pantomime of Don Quixote. He agreed to pay each performer
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 two dollars. For this sum Forrest acted a dandy in the first play, a negro in the second, and Sancho Panza in the third. The Tailor in Distress was a light affair, composed by Sol Smith, turning on local matters well known and very ludicrous. The part of Ruban, the negro, assigned to Forrest, was full of songs, dances, and fun. He was a servant, and his wife, who had nothing to say, was to appear with him as a help to set off his performance. He blacked himself up and rigged his costume quite to his content, when it occurred to his thought that no one had been got for the part of his black wife. He applied to the women of the theatre, but not one of them was willing to black herself for the occasion. He recollected his old African washerwoman, who lived in a shanty close by. He hurried thither and knocked and went in. Dinah cried, "Wha, bress me! who am dis? Gosh-a-massy, who be you? Whose chile am you?" He answered, in a negro voice, "Wha, Dinah, duzzent you know Sambo?" "What Sambo?" she answered. "No, I duzzent know nothin' about you. Who is you?" "Heaw! heaw! You duzzent know me! Now, don't you petend you am ign'rant ob dis chile." "Well, I say I be, and want to know who you am!" Time was pressing, and he said, in simple earnest, "Dinah, I am Mr. Forrest, from the theatre. I am all blacked and dressed to play the part of a negro, and I must have a black wife to go on the stage with me. I want you to do it." The astonished and incredulous washerwoman responded, "De debbil you does!" Sharply examining her visitor, she recognized him. "Reely, now, it be de fac'. You am Mass' Forrest. But what a funny nigger you am! You nigger all ober!" "Yes, Dinah, but hurry along, or we shall be late." "Well, I duzzent care; I goes along wid you anyhow." So they hastened arm-in-arm to the theatre, and got there just in time. The appearance of the darkies was greeted with loud applause, and when Ruban began to let out the regular cuffy, as he always could in the most irresistible way, with wide and suddenly breaking inflections of voice, breathing guffaw, and convulsive double-shuffle, the enthusiasm of the audience reached the highest pitch. The play was repeated several nights to crowds.
The Distressed Tailor referred to a well-known representative of that profession, named Platt Evans, who was a very curious and original character. He was interviewed by Mr. Gallagher
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 in 1869, who found him a hale, active man of over eighty, and still fond of his joke. Old Platt said, "The farce was a da-da-da-dam good thing; on-on-only the character of me wa-was not true, as he stu-stu-stu-stuttered, and I do-don't stu-stu-stutter!" He said he made a suit of clothes for Forrest in 1823, and that once when he was in the store a fellow accused him of being stuffed. Forrest took off his coat and vest, and, striking his breast, exclaimed, "No, there is no padding here. It is all honest, and I mean it always shall be!"
It was now the end of July. The theatre was shut, the actors adrift and penniless. It was a hard time for them. Mrs. Riddle and her two daughters lived for awhile in Newport in a little dilapidated cottage, and Forrest spent part of his time with them. Invited to a party on one occasion, he was in want of a clean shirt and collar. Mrs. Riddle took a collar and a handkerchief of her own, washed and ironed them, pinned the collar on, tied a piece of ribbon around his neck, fastened the handkerchief over the bosom of his dingy shirt, and sent him smilingly off to the festivity, where his disguise was probably little suspected. Young, full of healthy blood, with a fiery imagination, it took but little to make him happy in those days. And yet, poor, ill clad, unemployed, with only a few chance friends, at a distance from mother and home, it took but little to make him very unhappy.
For several weeks he obtained almost his sole food from the corn-fields of General Taylor across the river in Newport. He used to break off an armful of ears, take them to his old negro washerwoman, and get her to boil them for him. Sometimes he made a fire under some stones out in the field, roasted the corn and ate it without salt. It was a Spartan dinner; but, fortunately, he had a Spartan appetite.
During this period he one day rowed over the river to Covington and climbed a sightly eminence there wooded with a growth of oaks. He sat down under a huge tree, pulled from his pocket his well-worn copy of Shakspeare, and began to read. He had on a somewhat ragged coat and a dilapidated pair of stage-boots whose gilding contrasted with the rusty remainder of his costume. He was no little depressed that day with loneliness and thinking of his destitute condition and precarious outlook. He fell upon this passage in King Henry IV.:
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"O God! that one might read the book of Fate,
And see the revolution of the times
Make mountains level, and the continent,
Weary of solid firmness, melt itself
Into the sea! and, other times, to see
The beachy girdle of the ocean
Too wide for Neptune's hips; how chances mock,
And changes fill the cup of alteration
With divers liquors! O, if this were seen,
The happiest youth—viewing his progress through,
What perils past, what crosses to ensue—
Would shut the book, and sit him down and die."
Edwin felt melancholy enough as he laid the volume on his knee, and his head sank on his bosom in painful musing. After a long time, breaking from his reverie, he looked up. There stood, erect before him, a stout grape-vine. Apparently its tendrils had been torn from the oak by whose side it grew, and finding itself cast off, alone, deprived of its sustaining protection, it had rallied upon its own roots, spread and deepened them, and now held itself bravely up in solitary independence, as if it were not a vine but a tree. The moral lesson electrified him. He took new heart, with the feeling that it would be shameful for him to succumb when even a poor plant could thus conquer. Twenty years afterwards, with a grateful memory of the incident, he bought that whole woodland region, of some sixty acres, and named it Forrest Hill. He owned it at the day of his death.
After another brief trial of the theatre at Lexington, late in the autumn, Collins and Jones grew discouraged, gave up their business, and released Forrest from his contract with them. James H. Caldwell, an extremely good light comedian, and for many years proprietor and manager of the theatre in New Orleans, wrote to him opportunely, offering him an engagement for the ensuing season at a salary of eighteen dollars a week. It is said that Caldwell was led to make this proposition from his remembrance of having once seen the youth make an original point of great power in the part of Richard the Third. It was in the tent scene. All previous actors had been wont to awake from the dream in a state of extreme affright, and either sit on the side of the couch or stand near it. Forrest sprang from his reclining posture, rushed forward to the foot-lights, and there fell upon his knees, with his whole frame trembling, his face blanched with
[Pg 112]
 terror, his sword grasped by the hilt in one hand and with the point in the floor, the sword itself so shaking that it could be heard all over the house. The intense realism with which this was done made it sensational in an extraordinary degree.
When Forrest had accepted the proposal from Caldwell, the thought of the long, long journey and the time that must elapse before he should see his mother again gave him a homesick feeling. He shrank from his engagement. Learning that his acquaintance Sol Smith was then in Lexington collecting a troupe to play in Cincinnati, he called on him and urgently begged to be employed. He said he had rather serve under him for ten dollars a week than under a stranger for eighteen. He was steadily refused. He went over to a circus which then chanced to be there, and hired himself out for a year. Smith says he heard of this with great mortification, and immediately called at the circus. There, he adds, sure enough, was Ned in all his glory, surrounded by riders, tumblers, and grooms. He was slightly abashed at first, but, putting a good face on the affair, said, as he had been refused an engagement at ten dollars a week by his old friend, he had agreed with these boys for twelve. To convince Smith of his ability to sustain his new line of business, he turned a couple of flip-flaps on the spot. Smith took Edwin to his lodgings, and by dint of argument and persuasion succeeding in getting him to abandon the profession of clown and fulfil his promise to Caldwell.
He accordingly went to Louisville and took passage on a steamboat down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers to New Orleans. On the trip he made the acquaintance of Winfield Scott and of John Howard Payne. The celebrated general and the gifted author of Sweet Home seem both to have been strongly attracted to the young actor. They held many long conversations with him, and brought out, from their ample stores of experience in the field and on the boards, anecdotes, principles, criticism, and advice, which were not only highly entertaining to him at the time but lastingly instructive and useful. He always accounted his meeting with these two men as a particular piece of good fortune. It betokens that he was at that period of his life an ingenuous and docile spirit, however impulsive and wild still attracting the sympathy and appropriating from the experience of his elders.

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