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Scanned and proofed by Ron Burkey (
I have retained all of the original spelling and punctuation from the
printed edition. Italicized text is delimited with _underlines_.
Footnotes are collected at the end, and are indicated by brackets,
thusly: [3].

Library of
Little Masterpieces
In Forty-four Volumes


Edited by



A good play gives us in miniature a cross-section of life, heightened
by plot and characterisation, by witty and compact dialogue. Of
course we should honour first the playwright, who has given form to
each well knit act and telling scene. But that worthy man, perhaps at
this moment sipping his coffee at the Authors' Club, gave his drama
its form only; its substance is created by the men and women who, with
sympathy, intelligence and grace, embody with convincing power the
hero and heroine, assassin and accomplice, lover and jilt. For the
success of many a play their writers would be quick to acknowledge a
further and initial debt, both in suggestion and criticism, to the
artists who know from experience on the boards that deeds should he
done, not talked about, that action is cardinal, with no other words
than naturally spring from action. Players, too, not seldom remind
authors that every incident should not only be interesting in itself,
but take the play a stride forward through the entanglement and
unravelling of its plot. It is altogether probable that the heights
to which Shakespeare rose as a dramatist were due in a measure to his
knowledge of how a comedy, or a tragedy, appears behind as well as in
front of the footlights, all in an atmosphere quite other than that
surrounding a poet at his desk.

This little volume begins with part of the life story of Joseph
Jefferson, chief of American comedians. Then we are privileged to
read a few personal letters from Edwin Booth, the acknowledged king of
the tragic stage. He is followed by the queen in the same dramatic
realm, Charlotte Cushman. Next are two chapters by the first
emotional actress of her day in America, Clara Morris. When she bows
her adieu, Sir Henry Irving comes upon the platform instead of the
stage, and in the course of his thoughtful discourse makes it plain
how he won renown both as an actor and a manager. He is followed by
his son, Mr. Henry Brodribb Irving, clearly an heir to his father's
talents in art and in observation. Miss Ellen Terry, long Sir Henry
Irving's leading lady, now tells us how she came to join his company,
and what she thinks of Sir Henry Irving in his principal roles. The
succeeding word comes from Richard Mansfield, whose untimely death is
mourned by every lover of the drama. The next pages are from the hand
of Tommaso Salvini, admittedly the greatest Othello and Samson that
ever trod the boards. A few words, in closing, are from Adelaide
Ristori, whose Medea, Myrrha and Phaedra are among the great
traditions of the modern stage. From first to last this little book
sheds light on the severe toil demanded for excellence on the stage,
and reveals that for the highest success of a drama, author and artist
must work hand in hand.


How I came to play "Rip Van Winkle."
The art of acting.
Preparation and inspiration.
Should an actor "feel" his part?
Learning to act.
Playwrights and actors.
The Jefferson face.