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Ch. 7: First Plays

When the season in Paris had reached its end, Richard returned to London and later on to Marion, where he spent the late summer and early fall, working on his Mediterranean and Paris articles, and completing his novel "Soldiers of Fortune." In October he returned to New York and once more assumed his editorial duties and took his usual active interest in the winter's gayeties.

The first of these letters refers to a dinner of welcome given to Sir Henry Irving. The last two to books by my mother and Richard, and which were published simultaneously.


NEW YORK, November 27, 1893.

DEAR MOTHER:

The dinner was very fine. I was very glad I went. Whitelaw Reid sat on one side of Sir Henry Irving and Horace Porter on the other. Howells and Warner came next. John Russell Young and Mark Twain, Millet, Palmer, Hutton, Gilder and a lot more were there. There were no newspaper men, not even critics nor actors there, which struck me as interesting. The men were very nice to me. Especially Young, Reid, Irving and Howells. Everybody said when I came in, "I used to know you when you were a little boy," so that some one said finally, "What a disagreeable little boy you MUST have been." I sat next a chap from Brazil who told me lots of amusing things. One story if it is good saves a whole day for me. One he told was of a German explorer to whom Don Pedro gave an audience. The Emperor asked him, with some touch of patronage, if he had ever met a king before. "Yes," the German said thoughtfully; "five, three wild and two tame."

Mark Twain told some very funny stories, and captured me because I never thought him funny before, and Irving told some about Stanley, and everybody talked interestingly. Irving said he was looking forward to seeing Dad when he reached Philadelphia. "It is nice to have seen you," he said, "but I have still to see your father," as though I was not enough.

DICK.


NEW YORK, 1893.

DEAREST MOTHER:

I cannot tell you how touched and moved I was by the three initials in the book. It was a genuine and complete surprise and when I came across it while I was examining the letterpress with critical approbation and with no idea of what was to come, it left me quite breathless-- It was so sweet of you-- You understand me and I understand you and you know how much that counts to me-- I think the book is awfully pretty and in such good taste-- It is quite a delight to the eye and I am much more keen about it than over any of my own-- I have sent it to some of my friends but I have not read it yet myself, as I am waiting until I get on the boat where I shall not be disturbed-- Then I shall write you again-- It was awfully good of you, and I am so pleased to have it to give away. I never had anything to show people when they asked for one of your other books and this comes in such an unquestionable form-- With lots of love.

DICK.


NEW YORK, 1893.

DEAR MOTHER:

I got your nice letter and one from Dad. Both calling me many adjectives pleasing to hear although they do not happen to fit. So you are in a third edition are you? These YOUNG writers are crowding me to the wall. I feel thrills of pride when I see us sitting cheek by jowl on the news-stands. Lots of love.


In February, 1894, Richard was forced by a severe attack of sciatica to give up temporarily the gayeties of New York and for a cure he naturally chose our home in Philadelphia, where he remained for many weeks. Although unable to leave his bed, he continued to do a considerable amount of work, including the novelette "The Princess Aline," in the writing of which I believe my brother took more pleasure than in that of any story or novel he ever wrote. The future Empress of Russia was the heroine of the tale, and that she eventually read the story and was apparently delighted with it caused Richard much human happiness.


PHILADELPHIA.

March 5th.

DEAR CHAS:

I am getting rapidly better owing to regular hours and light literature and home comforts. I am not blue as I was and my morbidness has gone and I only get depressed at times. I am still however feeling tired and I think I will take quite a rest before I venture across the seas. But across them I will come no matter if all the nerves on earth jump and pull. Still, I think it wiser for all concerned that I get thoroughly well so that when I do come I won't have to be cutting back home again as I did last time. We are young yet and the world's wide and there's a new farce comedy written every minute and I have a great many things to do myself so I intend to get strong and then do them. I enclose two poems. I am going to have them printed for my particular pals later. I am writing one to all of you folks over there.

DICK.


TAKE ME BACK TO BROADWAY, WHERE THE ORCHIDS GROW

WITH APOLOGIES TO THE WESTERN DIALECT POETS

"I have wandered up and down somewhat in many different lands I have been to Fort Worth, Texas, and I've tramped through Jersey sands, I have seen Pike's Peak by Moonlight, and I've visited the Fair And to save enumeration I've been nearly everywhere. But no matter where I rested and no matter where I'd go, I have longed to be on Broadway

Where the Orchids Grow.

Some people love the lilies fair that hide in mossy dells Some folks are fond of new mown hay, before the rainy spells But give to me the orchids rare that hang in Thorley's store, And in Fleischman's at the Hoffman, and in half a dozen more And when I see them far from home they make my heart's blood glow For they take me back to Broadway

Where the Orchids Grow.

Let Paris boast of boulevards where one can sit and drink There is no such chance on Broadway, at the Brower House, 'I don't think.' And where else are there fair soubrettes in pipe clayed tennis shoes, And boys in silken sashes promenading by in twos Oh you can boast of any street of which you're proud to know But give me sleepy Broadway

Where the Orchids Grow.

Let poets sing of chiming bells and gently lowing kine I like the clanging cable cars like fire engines in line And I never miss the sunset and for moonlight never sigh When 'Swept by Ocean Breezes.' flashes out against the sky. And when the Tenderloin awakes, and open theatres glow I want to be on Broadway

Where the Orchids Grow."

A VOUS, JOHN DREW

"John Drew, I am your debtor For a very pleasant letter And a lot of cabinet photos Of the 'Butterflies' and you And I think it very kind That you kept me so in mind And pitied me in exile So I do, John Drew.

2

John Drew, 'twixt you and me Precious little I can see Of that good there is in Solitude That poets say they view. For I hate to be in bed With a candle at my head Sitting vis a vis with Conscience. So would you, John Drew.

3

John Drew, then promise me That as soon as I am free I may sit in the first entrance As Lamb always lets me do. And watch you fume and fret While the innocent soubrette Takes the centre of the stage a-- Way from you, John Drew."

R. H. D.


In the summer of 1894 Richard went to London for a purely social visit, but while he was there President Carnot was assassinated, and he went to Paris to write the "story" of the funeral and of the election of the new President.


VERSAILLES, June 24, 1894.

I am out here to see the election of the new President. I jumped on the mail coach and came off in a hurry without any breakfast, but I had a pretty drive out, and the guard and I talked of London. The palace is closed and no one is admitted except by card, so I have seen only the outside of it. It is most interesting. There is not a ribbon or a badge; not a banner or a band. The town is as quiet as always, and there are not 200 people gathered at the gate through which the deputies pass. Compared to an election convention in Chicago, it is most interesting. How lively it is inside of the chamber where the thing is going on I cannot say. I shall not wait to hear the result, but will return on the coach.

Nothing could be more curious than the apparent indifference of the people of Paris to the assassination of the President. Two days after he died there was not a single flag at half mast among the private residences. The Government buildings, the hotels and the stores were all that advertised their grief. I shall have an interesting story to write of it for the Parisian series. Dana Gibson and I will wait until after the funeral and then go to Andorra. If he does not go, I may go alone, but perhaps I shall go back to London at once. This has been an interesting time here, but only because it is so different from what one would expect. It reads like a burlesque to note the expressions of condolence from all over the world, and to mark the self-satisfaction of the French at attracting so much sympathy, and their absolute indifference to the death of Carnot. It is most curious. We have an ideal time. Never before have I had such jolly dinners, with such good talk and such amusing companions.

DICK.


LONDON, July 15, 1894.

DEAR MOTHER:

Mr. Irving gave a supper last night to Mme. Bernhardt and Mme. Rejane. There were about twenty people, and we ate in the Beefsteak Room of the Lyceum Theater, which is so called after the old Beefsteak Club which formerly met there. I had a most delightful time, and talked to all the French women and to Miss Terry, who sent her love to Dad. She said, "I did not SEE him this last visit; that is, I saw him but I did not see him." Her daughter is a very sweet girl, and the picture Miss Terry made on her knees looking up at Bernhardt and Rejane when they chattered in French was wonderful. Neither she nor Irving could speak a word of French, and whenever any one else tried, the crowd all stood in a circle and applauded and guyed them. After it was over, at about three in the morning, Miss Terry offered me a lift home in her open carriage, so she and her daughter and I rode through the empty streets in the gray light for miles and miles, as, of course, I did not get out of such company any sooner than I had to do. They had taken Irving's robe of cardinal red and made it into cloaks, and they looked very odd and eerie with their yellow hair and red capes, and talking as fast as they could.

DICK.


Richard Harding Davis