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[Illustration: Ellen Terry

drawn from photographs by Albert Sterner]





THE STORY OF MY LIFE

RECOLLECTIONS AND REFLECTIONS


BY

ELLEN TERRY


[Illustration]


ILLUSTRATED


NEW YORK

DOUBLEDAY, PAGE & CO.

MCMIX




_1908, The McClure Company_

1907, 1908, The S.S. McClure Company

1907, 1908, Ellen Terry




TO

EDY




CONTENTS


INTRODUCTION

I. A CHILD OF THE STAGE, 1848-56
The Charles Keans, 1856
Training in Shakespeare, 1856-59

II. ON THE ROAD, 1859-61
Life in a Stock Company, 1862-63
1864

III. ROSSETTI, BERNHARDT, IRVING, 1865-67
My First Impressions of Henry Irving

IV. A SIX-YEAR VACATION, 1868-74

V. THE ACTRESS AND THE PLAYWRIGHT, 1874.
Portia, 1875
Tom Taylor and Lavender Sweep

VI. A YEAR WITH THE BANCROFTS

VII. EARLY DAYS AT THE LYCEUM

VIII. WORK AT THE LYCEUM

IX. LYCEUM PRODUCTIONS

X. LYCEUM PRODUCTIONS (_continued_)

XI. AMERICA: THE FIRST OF EIGHT TOURS
What Constitutes Charm

XII. SOME LIKES AND DISLIKES

XIII. THE MACBETH PERIOD

XIV. LAST DAYS AT THE LYCEUM
My Stage Jubilee
Apologia
The Death of Henry Irving
Alfred Gilbert and others
"Beefsteak" Guests at the Lyceum
Bits From My Diary

INDEX




LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS


Ellen Terry

Mr. and Mrs. Benjamin Terry

Charles Kean and Ellen Terry in 1856

Ellen Terry in 1856

Ellen Terry at Sixteen

"The Sisters" (Kate and Ellen Terry)

Ellen Terry at Seventeen

George Frederick Watts, R.A.

Ellen Terry as Helen in "The Hunchback"

Henry Irving

Head of a Young Girl (Ellen Terry)

Henry Irving

Ellen Terry as Portia

Henry Irving as Matthias in "The Bells"

Henry Irving as Philip of Spain

Henry Irving as Hamlet

Lily Langtry

William Terriss as Squire Thornhill in "Olivia"

Ellen Terry as Ophelia

Ellen Terry as Beatrice

Sir Henry Irving

Irving as Louis XI

Ellen Terry as Henrietta Maria

Ellen Terry as Camma in "The Cup"

Ellen Terry as Iolanthe

Ellen Terry as Letitia Hardy in "The Belle's Stratagem"

Edwin Thomas Booth

Ellen Terry as Juliet

Two Portraits of Ellen Terry as Beatrice

Ellen Terry's Favourite Photograph as Olivia

Eleanora Duse with Lenbach's Child

Ellen Terry as Margaret in "Faust"

Ellen Terry as Ellaline in "The Amber Heart"

Miss Ellen Terry in 1883

The Bas-relief Portrait of Robert Louis Stevenson

Miss Terry and Sir Henry Irving

Sarah Holland, Ellen Terry's Dresser

Miss Rosa Corder

Miss Ellen Terry with her Fox-terriers

Miss Ellen Terry in 1898

Sir Henry Irving

Miss Ellen Terry

Ellen Terry as Lady Macbeth

Sir Henry Irving

Ellen Terry as Lucy Ashton in "Ravenswood"

Henry Irving as Cardinal Wolsey in "Henry VIII."

Ellen Terry as Nance Oldfield

Ellen Terry as Kniertje in "The Good Hope"

Ellen Terry as Imogen

Henry Irving as Becket

Sir Henry Irving

Ellen Terry as Rosamund in "Becket"

Ellen Terry as Guinevere in "King Arthur"

"Olivia"

Miss Terry's Garden at Winchelsea

Ellen Terry as Hermione in "The Winter's Tale"




INTRODUCTION

"When I read the book, the biography famous,
And is this then (said I) what the author calls a man's life?
And so will some one when I am dead and gone write my life?
(As if any man really knew aught of my life!)
Why even I myself, I often think, know little or nothing of my real
life.
Only a few hints--a few diffused faint clues and indirections
I seek ... to trace out here."

WALT WHITMAN.


For years I have contemplated telling this story, and for years I have
put off telling it. While I have delayed, my memory has not improved,
and my recollections of the past are more hazy and fragmentary than when
it first occurred to me that one day I might write them down.

My bad memory would matter less if I had some skill in writing--the
practiced writer can see possibilities in the most ordinary events--or
if I had kept a systematic and conscientious record of my life. But
although I was at one time conscientious and diligent enough in keeping
a diary, I kept it for use at the moment, not for future reference. I
kept it with paste-pot and scissors as much as with a pen. My method was
to cut bits out of the newspapers and stick them into my diary day by
day. Before the end of the year was reached Mr. Letts would have been
ashamed to own his diary. It had become a bursting, groaning dust-bin of
information, for the most part useless. The biggest elastic band made
could hardly encircle its bulk, swelled by photographs, letters,
telegrams, dried flowers--the whole making up a confusion in which every
one but the owner would seek in vain to find some sense or meaning.

About six years ago I moved into a smaller house in London, and I burnt
a great many of my earlier diaries as unmovable rubbish. The few
passages which I shall quote in this book from those which escaped
destruction will prove that my bonfire meant no great loss!

Still, when it was suggested to me in the year of my stage jubilee that
I ought to write down my recollections, I longed for those diaries! I
longed for anything which would remind me of the past and make it live
again for me. I was frightened. Something would be expected of me, since
I could not deny that I had had an eventful life packed full of
incident, and that by the road I had met many distinguished and
interesting men and women. I could not deny that I had been fifty years
on the stage, and that this meant enough material for fifty books, if
only the details of every year could be faithfully told. But it is not
given to all of us to see our lives in relief as we look back. Most of
us, I think, see them in perspective, of which our birth is the
vanishing point. Seeing, too, is only half the battle. How few people
can describe what they see!

While I was thinking in this obstructive fashion and wishing that I
could write about my childhood like Tolstoi, about my girlhood like
Marie Bashkirtseff, and about the rest of my days and my work like many
other artists of the pen, who merely, by putting black upon white, have
had the power to bring before their readers not merely themselves "as
they lived," but the most homely and intimate details of their lives,
the friend who had first impressed on me that I ought not to leave my
story untold any longer, said that the beginning was easy enough: "What
is the first thing you remember? Write that down as a start."

But for my friend's practical suggestion it is doubtful if I should ever
have written a line! He relieved my anxiety about my powers of compiling
a stupendous autobiography, and made me forget that writing was a new
art, to me, and that I was rather old to try my hand at a new art. My
memory suddenly began to seem not so bad after all. For weeks I had
hesitated between Othello's "Nothing extenuate, nor write down aught in
malice," and Pilate's "What is truth?" as my guide and my apology. Now I
saw that both were too big for my modest endeavor. I was not leaving a
human document for the benefit of future psychologists and historians,
but telling as much of my story as I could remember to the good, living
public which has been considerate and faithful to me for so many years.

How often it has made allowances for me when I was nervous on first
nights! With what patience it has waited long and uncomfortable hours to
see me! Surely its charity would quickly cover my literary sins.

I gave up the search for a motto which should express my wish to tell
the truth so far as I know it, to describe things as I see them, to be
faithful according to my light, not dreading the abuse of those who
might see in my light nothing but darkness.

I shut up "Othello" and did not try to verify the remark of "jesting"
Pilate. The only instruction that I gave myself was to "begin at the
beginning."

E.T.




THE STORY OF MY LIFE




I

A CHILD OF THE STAGE

1848-1856


This is the first thing I remember.

In the corner of a lean-to whitewashed attic stood a fine, plain, solid
oak bureau. By climbing up on to this bureau I could see from the window
the glories of the sunset. My attic was on a hill in a large and busy
town, and the smoke of a thousand chimneys hung like a gray veil between
me and the fires in the sky. When the sun had set, and the scarlet and
gold, violet and primrose, and all those magic colors that have no
names, had faded into the dark, there were other fires for me to see.
The flaming forges came out, and terrified while they fascinated my
childish imagination.

What did it matter to me that I was locked in and that my father and
mother, with my elder sister Kate, were all at the theater? I had the
sunset, the forges, and the oak bureau.

I cannot say how old I was at this time, but I am sure that it wasn't
long after my birth (which I can't remember, although I have often been
asked to decide in which house at Coventry I was born!). At any rate, I
had not then seen a theater, and I took to the stage before many years
had passed over my head.

Putting together what I remembered, and such authentic history as there
is of my parents' movements, I gather that this attic was in theatrical
lodgings in Glasgow. My father was an actor, my mother an actress, and
they were at this time on tour in Scotland. Perhaps this is the place to
say that father was the son of an Irish builder, and that he eloped in a
chaise with mother, who was the daughter of a Scottish minister. I am
afraid I know no details of their romance. As for my less immediate
ancestry, it is "wropt in mystery." Were we all people of the stage?
There was a Daniel Terry who was not only a famous actor in his day, but
a friend of Sir Walter Scott's. There was an Eliza Terry, an actress
whose portrait appears in _The Dramatic Mirror_ in 1847. But so far as I
know I cannot claim kinship with either Eliza or Daniel.

I have a very dim recollection of anything that happened in the attic,
beyond the fact that when my father and mother went to the theater every
night, they used to put me to bed and that directly their backs were
turned and the door locked, I used to jump up and go to the window.



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