[Advert for The Bride of Love from The Times (21 May, 1890 - p.8).]
The Times (22 May, 1890 - p.8)
The myth of Eros and Psyche, originally told by Apuleius and dramatized in later days by Molière and Corneille, has given an inspiring if difficult subject to a modern playwright. Mr. Robert Buchanan, whose play entitled The Bride of Love was produced at the Adelphi Theatre yesterday afternoon, has treated the classical story with a free hand, and the result is a piece which, although it leaves much to be desired and although it is capable of much improvement, has many pleasing features. In the first act, of which the scene is the summit of a mountain in Cyprus, Aphrodite (Miss Ada Cavendish), Eros (Mr. T. B. Thalberg), and Zephyros (Mr. Lionel Rignold) are introduced. Aphrodite is jealous because her worship on earth is neglected by reason of the charms of Psyche. Eros, by no means the mischievous Cupid of legend but a young divinity who is feeling his strength, appears in the guise of one wearied of celestial society. Zephyros is, so to speak, the clown of the piece. At the outset the play drags heavily and it is only after Aphrodite has left the scene that human interest is introduced. At the invitation of Zephyros, Eros looks down upon Psyche (Miss Harriet Jay) sleeping upon the hillside, and then commands Zephyros to waft her to the mountain. There follows a pretty passage, in which the god places a ring on the finger of the sleeping maiden. He then determines to woo her in mortal shape. The second act is no better than the first. At the outset a ludicrous row of Kings propose in turn for the hand of Psyche and are rejected. Her father, Methonos (Mr. A. Brydone), consults in his anger the oracle of Aphrodite, and Psyche is doomed to be chained to a rock at the edge of the sea awaiting the advent of a monster. The spiteful delight of her sisters, Creusa and Hyla, is well portrayed by Miss Ada Ferrar and Miss Frances Ivor. Psyche is duly chained to the rock and, with great promptitude, released by Eros; but up to the end of the act the weariness produced by the long succession of proposing Kings does not wear away. When the curtain rises there is a great and welcome change. In an enchanted garden Eros wooes Psyche, and the occasion becomes an excuse for an admirable cymbal dance by Miss Letty Lind in the character of Euphrosyne. In an evil moment Eros allows Methonos, Creusa, and Hyla, with two Kings, to be brought into the enchanted garden, and a bitter scene follows in which the sisters taunt Psyche because she avows herself the bride of Prince Nobody of No Man’s Land. On their departure Eros vows, by Styx and Acheron, to grant Psyche any prayer she may offer, and, in pursuance of the vow, reveals his divinity to her. Then the curse of blindness falls upon her. The final scene of the act is touching and effective. It evoked tumultuous applause from the crowded house. In the final act the repentance of Aphrodite is portrayed. Psyche wanders blind and groping on to the stage and dies in the arms of Eros; but in the meanwhile Aphrodite has interceded with Zeus and Psyche is brought to life, destined to be immortal, through the instrumentality of Euphrosyne, who strews her body with flowers. When the curtain dropped for the last time the audience showed its satisfaction by repeated calls for the actors and the author. On the whole, Mr. Buchanan has cause for satisfaction. Miss Harriet Jay played the part of Psyche admirably; Mr. Thalberg, aided by his looks, was a commendable Eros as soon as the play began to move. But there were plenty of mistakes. The part of Zephyros is somewhat coarsely conceived; Mr. Rignold did not improve upon the author’s conception. Errors in pronunciation were numerous, and it ought surely to have been possible to teach some of the actors beforehand that Creusa is not to be pronounced “cruiser,” that the first syllable in Eros is not quite the same as that in era. The music, by Mr. Walter Slaughter, is pleasing. In this connexion particular mention may be made of an epithalamium in the third act, and of a hymn, in the last act, composed expressly for the occasion by Dr. A. C. Mackenzie.
The Daily News (22 May, 1890)
. . .
MR. BUCHANAN’S “BRIDE OF LOVE.”
Mr. Robert Buchanan’s play “The Bride of Love,” produced at the Adelphi yesterday, is a new version of the well- worn story of Eros and Psyche, invented by Apuleius, and already told in prose and verse by many a dramatist and poet. The legend now appears in the form of a four-act play, for the most part in scholarly blank verse, the monotony of which is relieved by a part-song and some less important incidental music from the pen of Mr. Walter Slaughter, who conducted, and two choral odes by Dr. A. C. Mackenzie. It is a part of Mr. Buchanan’s design to increase the interest of the story by investing his immortals with various mundane feelings and attributes. It is for this reason that, although the narrative of the sudden love of Eros for Psyche, their marriage, and the ill effects of that particular sin of feminine curiosity which proves as fatal to them as to Elsa and Lohengrin, is followed with tolerable fidelity; yet the character of the mortal- hating Aphrodite is softened down in maternal solicitude for her eldest son, while the Zephyr becomes a veritable Figaro in assisting the young couple in their courting; and gods and mortals alike are represented as impotent against the all- conquering power of love. By a beautiful allegory also Psyche is in the last act depicted as passing through the valley of death, and, having by the will of Zeus thus attained immortality, she is united for eternity to her earthly husband, the young god Eros. It is, indeed, upon the love of Psyche and Eros that the plot chiefly centres, and, despite a certain amount of redundancy and a few anachronisms which will doubtless disappear at subsequent performances, Mr. Buchanan has contrived to tell a very ancient story in an undoubtedly engaging and sympathetic manner. The play was admirably mounted; and although some of the performers were obviously unaccustomed to the delivery of blank verse, yet the principal artistes, who included Mrs. Harriett Jay as Psyche, Miss Ada Cavendish as Aphrodite, Mr. Thalberg as Eros, and Mr. Lionel Rignold as a comic Zephyr, were, together with the author, deservedly called to the front after the last act. In regard to the music, Mr. Walter Slaughter’s part-song of “Elemental Spirits” in the second act was unfortunately spoilt by a faulty performance. But more pains were taken by a choir of ladies with a two-part Epithalamic chorus in the second act, sung to a harp accompaniment, two flutes and cymbals filling up the intervals (Dr. Mackenzie thus replacing the trigonon and pipe of ancient Greece), and with a choric ode in praise of love, from the same pen. Unfortunately, the piece was not provided with an overture or entr’acte music, although it was generally felt by the musical members of the audience that a play so high in literary aim deserved something far better than the dance pieces which yesterday did duty in this respect.
St. James’s Gazette (22 May, 1890 - p.3-4)
“THE BRIDE OF LOVE” AT THE ADELPHI.
“The distinctive aim of tragedy,” Schlegel wrote, “is to establish the claims of the mind to a divine origin; to show that its earthly existence must be disregarded as vain and insignificant, all sorrows endured and all difficulties overcome.” A similar purpose is claimed by Mr. Robert Buchanan for his new poetical play “The Bride of Love,” produced yesterday afternoon at the Adelphi Theatre. For the basis of the piece he has had recourse to the old mythological legend dealing with the loves of Psyche and the immortal Eros. Lest, however, his treatment of the well-known story should be called in question, the author hastens to repudiate any intention of investing it with either the form or the spirit of Greek drama. By so doing he disarms criticism, which might otherwise be disposed to take exception to certain of his innovations. The public, however, will doubtless be content with the fact that Mr. Buchanan has provided a play not only interesting in itself but containing several scenes of considerable beauty. It is true that he never seems capable of entirely divesting himself of his nineteenth-century mantle. Only the other day it was observed in the palace of Justinian, and now we catch glimpses of it even among the Olympians. Zephyros, in “The Bride of Love,” who longs for “sport more spicy” and has a quick eye for a pretty maiden, is as modern as Lutin in Mr. Gilbert’s “Wicked World” or King Phanor in “The Palace of Truth.” Something, however, may be taken as conceded to the public desire for a due proportion of comedy in a piece, whether its introduction be consistent or not. More successful is Mr. Buchanan in his graver moments. The story of Eros’s descent to earth, his rescue of the despairing Psyche, their separation and final reunion, is told by him in verse which, if it does not quite touch the loftiest heights, runs trippingly and introduces not a few passages of much tenderness and passion. That it received yesterday fullest justice from all the performers can hardly be said. In form and bearing Mr. Thalberg makes an ideal Eros; but, whether from nervousness or some other cause, he spoke his words throughout the first two acts so hurriedly as to render them almost unintelligible. At the end of the third, however, when, prompted by woman’s curiosity, Psyche to her own undoing, demands and learns her lover’s name, Mr. Thalberg exhibited genuine force. Here, too, Miss Harriett Jay was seen at her best. Her Psyche, it may be admitted, does not possess all the qualities of an ideal conception, but within certain limits it is an excellent and well-balanced performance. To Miss Ada Cavendish, as Aphrodite, was extended a warm and generous welcome on her return to the stage, which she has deserted too long. Actresses of her calibre are, unfortunately, only too rare at present, and her playing yesterday showed that she is still in perfect possession of her old powers. To each word was given its full significance, and every gesture was charged with meaning. Space forbids more than the mere mention of Miss Clara Jecks, Miss F. Ivor, Miss Ferrar, and Messrs. L. Rignold, Bassett Roe, and L. Outram, who all lent strength to an otherwise admirable cast. But a special word of praise must be given to Miss Letty Lind for her graceful dancing. The music, which forms an important factor in the piece, is from the pens of Dr. A. C. Mackenzie and Mr. W. Slaughter, who have also to be congratulated on their melodious setting of the different songs and choruses, excellently interpreted by Mr. Stedman’s choir. It only remains to add that the play has been handsomely mounted, and obtained a very favourable reception from the large audience assembled.
The Daily Telegraph (22 May, 1890 - p.5)
What with burlesque on the one hand, and the Gilbertian fairy plays on the other, any serious effort to revive a taste for the purely poetic drama is heavily handicapped. Mr. Robert Buchanan, however, enlisted yesterday afternoon the sympathy of an interested and intelligent audience to his graceful muse by the thoroughly successful production of “The bride of Love,” founded on the delightful myth of Eros and Psyche. The triumph was all the more remarkable because the author boldly scorned the ridicule and the silly susceptibilities of the frivolous, the sceptical, and the cynical. Careless of the fact that Mr. Buckstone, of the Haymarket, was the classical droll of Mr. Gilbert’s earliest topsy-turvy plays, he brought on a second Buckstone, in the shape of Mr. Lionel Rignold, to turn the gentle Zephyros into a comic character, and to remind those who were present that the low-comedian of the Adelphi had strayed into the Olympian regions. Ignoring altogether the traditions of the Gaiety, which year by year rings the death-knell of imaginative work, who should come to dance a Pyrrhic measure as Euphrosyne but Miss Letty Lind, with clinging, gauzy skirts and cymbals? Happily, the sneers of the irreverent were soon silenced, the scoffs were exchanged for smiles, and the transcendent beauty of the old legend conquered even ridicule itself. The novelty of a serious play in burlesque attire soon wore off, and, what with Mr. Buchanan’s poetry and Dr. A. C. Mackenzie’s melodious hymns and choruses, a success was won without so much as a dissentient voice.
There must have been scores of dramatists who have gone to the beautiful Greek legend preserved in the Golden Ass of Apuleius for inspiration at the very fountain head. Here we find Perseus and Andromeda; here we trace Pygmalion and Galatea with the god-given blindness, except that the punishment falls here on the woman and not the man; here is a distinct trace of King Lear perplexed by the vagaries of his daughters; here the germ of the child’s story of Cinderella, her spiteful sisters, and the amorous Prince; here suggestion after suggestion of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” and here also a dramatic position with associations which recall the modern scene in which the gardener’s son, Claude Melnotte, and the proud beauty of Lyons are discovered. Mr. Buchanan has done his work remarkably well, has conquered difficulties just where they appeared insurmountable, has given clever people a chance of speaking something better than inane doggrel; but, best of all, has by the force of his skill and erudition hushed the voice of flippant satire, and once more buoyed up the intelligent playgoer with the hope that even in the ashes of the poetic drama live unwonted fires. There is one suggestion we can cordially give. If the lovers of the drama will not have “The Bride of Love,” why not hand it boldly over to the musicians? Dr. Mackenzie has started the success—let him finish it. Here is a libretto made to his hand. The cry yesterday afternoon, after the double encore awarded to Dr. Mackenzie’s melodious epithalamium, was for more music, not less. “The Bride of Love” ought to live yet as a grand opera, for each scene and situation is suggestive of musical effect.
To Miss Ada Cavendish, who appeared as the Goddess Aphrodite, saddened by the waywardness of her son Eros, was awarded a generous—nay, an affectionate—welcome back to the stage. She spoke her lines with dignity and power, and delighted all who heard her by her clear enunciation and admirable method of elocution. Would, indeed, that the Goddess of Love could have imparted this chief and most important of her secrets to her beautiful boy Eros, who, in the graceful person of Mr. Thalberg, looked a picture, but was, during the best part of the performance, almost inaudible and wholly indistinct. What is the use of poetry if it is smothered? Of what value is verse if it be murdered in cold blood? Mr. Thalberg possesses the now popular art of crushing the poetry out of the text as if it were under a mill-stone. Every word that should not be prominent is articulated; every word that should have force is slurred over. We suspect, however, that in this unfortunate instance it was intense nervousness, for as the play went on Mr. Thalberg warmed to his work, and was actually audible. The curse of Psyche and the lament over her dead body were admirably rendered. But why should Mr. Thalberg be blamed? Where is the school for teaching young actors how to make verse audible?
The charming creation of Psyche fell to Miss Harriett Jay, who rendered it like the intelligent and sympathetic artist that she is. The author did not suffer here in sense or sound. It was pleasant to hear the text spoken with such grace and true heart-feeling. Minor characters were well and effectively interpreted by Mr. Alfred Brydone, Mr. Bassett Roe, Mr. Leonard Outram—all good elocutionists—and the Olympian scenes had the advantage of the assistance of clever Miss Clara Jecks, Miss Marie Fraser, and a somewhat modern stage child, Miss Jenny Humm. The comedy was safe in the hands of Mr. Lionel Rignold, an artist and still a low comedian; and Miss Letty Lind might have danced all the afternoon had she so willed it. Unquestionably Mr. Buchanan’s play was a relief after the recent surfeit of farcical absurdity and declassicised comedy with which the stage has been surfeited. It was a gala day for the imaginative, and surely the lovers of unadulterated fun will not grudge one afternoon among the flowers of poetry and under the green trees of culture. It is better to be taken by Mr. Buchanan out of the sunshine to Olympus, there to study “The Bride of Love,” than to test farces that ought never to have been written, and if written should incur a penalty for their production. The author was called, and there was a meaning in the call, and of course flowers were handed up to the Mortals and the Immortals.
The Scotsman (22 May, 1890 - p. 6)
LONDON, Wednesday night.— A new poetical play—for that is the title of “The Bride of Love” on the programme, by Mr Robert Buchanan—was given at the Adelphi Theatre this afternoon. Before dealing with the plot it will be best to quote the author’s preliminary note, prefixed to certain excerpts from the play which were handed to the critics. Mr Buchanan says “The Bride of Love” is founded on the beautiful Greek legend of “Eros and Psyche,” preserved for posterity in the “Golden Ass” of Apuleius. Perhaps no subject is associated with so many illustrious names; for it has been versified by La Fontaine, dramatised by Molière with the assistance of Corneille (who at 65 years of age wrote the famous perfervid invocation of L’Amour), graced by the songs of Quinault and the music of Lulli. The original L’Amour was Baron; the original Psyche, Mademoiselle Molière; and the original Zephyr Molière himself. The passion conceived by La Molière for young Baron during the representations of “Psyche” led to the fatal estrangement between the great author-actor and his wife.
The present author’s treatment of the legend is practically new and original, and has nothing in common with either the form or the spirit of Greek drama, or with the “tragédie-ballet” of Molière. It has been well remarked, however, that there is a curious and sympathetic likeness between the fancifulness of early Greek mythology and that of mediæval fairy lore. Eros, the eldest born of Aphrodite, is the embodiment of fully-developed though still young godhead, and is not in any way to be confounded with the Cupid of popular imagination. The story of Psyche’s love and loss has been well described as an allegory of the human soul in its passage upward—and hence, of course, the name. In the fourth act of the present play Psyche actually passes through the shadow of death, and arising thence glorified, realises not only the old Greek idea of apotheosis, but the modern Christian sentiment of the resurrection of the spiritualised body. The story of the piece is simple in the extreme. Eros, a god, loves Psyche, a mortal, and his devotion brings upon her a double doom. In the first place, the jealousy of Aphrodite, who cannot bear to hear of her loveliness, and desires to save her son from an ignominious love, condemns her to a fate like that of Andromeda, and then Psyche’s request that Eros should declare his name and station brings upon her total blindness, the fate of those who inquire too curiously of the gods. In the end she dies, but is brought back from death by Aphrodite, who relents and restores her to the arms of Eros. Mr Buchanan is a poet, and this piece is indubitably poetical. He is also a dramatist, but it cannot be said that, save here and there, it is dramatic. It has grace and prettiness, but it lacks action and variety. As an example of the blank verse in which it is written, we may quote the following speech of Eros, in which, before he sees Psyche, he is bewailing his condition on the heights of Olympus, being, in fact, bored to death:—
Heigh O! I would I were some merry mortal,
A mountaineer, a tiller of the earth,
A happy warrior on a battlefield;
To be in leading-strings and yet a god,
To be divine and yet a prisoner,
To deal at will to all, to men or gods.
The loving rapture I may never share;
There’s not a herd boy down in yonder dales
I do not envy. He at least can love!
Sits ’mid the shade in the sweet summer time,
With strong arm circled round some brown girl’s waist,
And busses her with a great smacking kiss
To crown his joy withal. I, lord of love’s self,
Whose breathing fills the air with love,
Am the one loveless thing in all the world!
The play was competently acted. Miss Harriett Jay, as Psyche, has good intentions and is evidently an earnest student of acting, but her execution leaves a good deal to be desired. She has tenderness, but she lacks power. Miss Ada Cavendish, who has come back to the stage, was an imposing Aphrodite; and Miss Ada Ferrar, in a comparatively small part showed herself a charming actress and one of the most capable of young ladies who now throng the stage. Mr Thalberg was a competent Eros, and other characters were fairly sustained. Mr Walter Slaughter’s music was most tuneful, and Miss Letty Lind won much applause for her dancing. The whole performance was received with great applause.
The Glasgow Herald (22 May, 1890 - p.7)
MR ROBERT BUCHANAN’S new poetical play, “The Bride of Love,” produced at the Adelphi to-day, is a classical work on practically new lines. The story is that of Eros and Psyche as told by Apuleius of old, and as versified by La Fontaine and dramatised by Moliére and others. In Mr Buchanan’s piece the immortals are, however, strongly endowed with human sympathies. In the first act, the scene of which is laid in the classical heaven, Aphrodite resides with her children, who include her eldest born, the god Eros. Eros is depicted as the embodiment of fully developed though still young god-head. His mother explains to her attendant Zephyr (who by the way throughout the play is a comic character) that she does not wish her eldest born “to contract all the wild errors of the elder gods.” Zephyr philosophically believes there are other reasons, and declares that Aphrodite has a purely mortal fear of growing old, and “is afraid of becoming a grandmother.” The act is chiefly taken up by a description of the gradually increasing manly feeling of Eros, his first vision of the beautiful Psyche, and his determination to secure her for his bride. His mother, Aphrodite, wills it otherwise, and in the second act, when six of the principal Kings of Greece and its neighbourhood come to claim Psyche for wife, the goddess causes her oracle to command Psyche, in accordance with the old legend, to be chained to a rock, and there to be wedded to the monster which shall come from the sea. A chorus of “elemental spirits,” the music of which is by Mr Walter Slaughter, is here interposed, and was sung behind the scenes. The monster proves to be Eros himself, who, in the next act, that is to say in the Garden of Love, is found married to Psyche. Here is sung a beautiful “Epithalamium,” or wedding ode, for female voices, written by Dr A. C. Mackenzie. Its melodious character is emphasised by its simple accompaniment from a harp, the interludes being filled in by two flutes and the cymbals, as typical of the pipe and lyre of ancient Greece. The ode is followed by the dance of Euphrosyne, undertaken by that graceful artist Miss Letty Lind.
AFTER this some of Psyche’s former admirers and her jealous sisters are introduced, and induce the bride to ask the question of the origin and family of her husband. Female curiosity in the Greek play is no less fatal than in Wagner’s “Lohengrin.” Psyche having unknowingly set eyes upon a god is stricken with blindness and loses her husband, who returns to the Pagan paradise. In the last act, the scene of which is identical with that of the first, the disconsolate Eros has returned to heaven, and has gained the sympathy of his mother, who for her son’s sake proceeds to Mount Olympus in order to beseech the gods to save her eldest-born from his misery. Psyche, too, is introduced among the immortals, and with the graceful thought which appears in the old legend her human attributes die, thus rendering her an immortal who can be united to her beloved Eros for eternity. The Choric song in praise of love, again accompanied by harp and flute, has been contributed by Dr Mackenzie, and with the announcement of Psyche’s immortality the play closes. The serious interest of the piece is enlivened not only by the comic character of Zephyr, but also by an amusing scene in the Garden of Love, in which Eros, using his power of inspiring affection, causes the kings who were previously suitors for the hand of his wife to fall desperately in love with her two disagreeable sisters. The play, which is written in blank verse, is an admirable literary effort, and although some of the lengthy speeches must be abbreviated it is a worthy example of Mr Buchanan’s dramatic abilities at their best. The play was mounted with taste, and was on the whole admirably played, particularly as to the Aphrodite of Miss Ada Cavendish—who thus made her first appearance on the stage since her widowhood—and as to the Eros of Mr Thalberg and the comic Zephyr of Mr Lionel Rignold. Miss Harriet Jay, although somewhat overweighted in the trying scenes in the third and fourth acts, must also be commended for her very careful rendering of the engaging part of Psyche. At the end of the performance Mr Robert Buchanan was called to the footlights and was applauded by a very large audience.
The Morning Post (23 May, 1890 - p.3)
Mr. Robert Buchanan’s new poetical play, “The Bride of Love,” in four acts, was produced on Wednesday afternoon, and proved to be in every way a remarkable dramatic work. The stage has so little association with poetry in these days, that a play of imagination is a welcome contrast to the devices of the stage carpenter and the mechanical characters of the sensational drama. Mr. Buchanan in his earlier days of authorship was better known as a poet than as a dramatist, and many of his old admirers will be disposed to welcome his return to poetic forms. There was something approaching to the classical in the representation of “The Bride of Love.” Scenic effects and music lent their aid, and choral odes were introduced, composed by Dr. A. C. Mackenzie, principal of the Royal Academy of Music, while other incidental music was composed by Mr. Walter Slaughter, who conducted the orchestra and chorus. The choral odes were given by Mr. Stedman’s choir, and new scenery and costumes enhanced the effect of Mr. Buchanan’s play, which is founded upon the Greek legend of Eros and Psyche, to be found in the “Golden Ass” of Apuleius. The subject has often tempted the dramatist and poet. Molière, assisted by Corneille, dramatised it, and songs of Quinault and music by Lulli were added. Molière took part in the piece, and became but too fascinated with the attractions of the representative of Love. Mr. Buchanan, while recalling these instances of the treatment of the story for the stage, claims that he has given a practically “new and original” treatment of the subject which has nothing in common with the Greek spirit or with the “tragedy-ballet” of Molière. The story of the love and fate of Psyche has served as an allegory of the human soul, and in the concluding act of the play the author has made an attempt to idealise the Greek legend by making Psyche actually pass through the shadow of death and arise glorified in accordance with Christian sentiment. In these passages we have the essence, so to speak, of the play, and the moral is that “Where Love abides Death hath no victory;” that beyond and above the power of the gods there is a law which attests that “Death is but the shadow of a dream.” This is the poetical side of the play, but Mr. Buchanan, in a manner not unlike that adopted by Mr. W. S. Gilbert in his “Pygmalion and Galatea,” mixes up some very mortal ideas and mortal personages with his Greek characters. They make effective scenes, and add life to the subject. With Mr. Fenton’s new scenery, Dr. Mackenzie’s expressive music, choral effects, beautiful costumes, and excellent acting, “The Bride of Love” is presented with attractions not likely to be ignored by the playgoer, especially by the frequenter of the theatre who has had enough and to spare of the commonplaces of modern drama. Varied degrees of merit marked the acting. Some performers naturally enough feel ill at ease in classic garb, but for the most part the performance was very satisfactory, and in many instances especially so. Miss Ada Cavendish was most warmly welcomed as the Goddess Aphrodite, her stately appearance being well suited to the character, and her delivery of Mr. Buchanan’s lines was worthy of their grace and tenderness. Miss Clara Jecks, sprightliest of modern actresses, represented Eridon with excellent effect. Mr. Lionel Rignold made a quaint figure of Zephyros, and pretty zephyrs and other fanciful figures were seen surrounded by a chorus of graces and elementary spirits. Mr. Bassett Roe, Mr. Leonard Outram, and Miss Ada Ferrar agreeably represented Lycas, Atalantos, and Creusa, and Miss Harriett Jay appeared as Psyche. Miss Jay has some of the best lines to deliver, and gave them with appropriate grace of diction and with ample fervour and passion. Mr. Thalberg, as Eros, was seen to advantage. He spoke the poetical lines with dignity and expression, and made a graceful and tender lover. Mr. Buchanan received the most cordial encouragement in his enterprise, being called for and greeted enthusiastically at the close.
The Stage (23 May, 1890 - p.12-13)
On Wednesday afternoon, May 21, 1890, was produced, for the first time, a new poetical play, in four acts, written by Robert Buchanan, entitled:
The Bride of Love.
The Goddess Aphrodite ... Miss Ada Cavendish
Eros ... ... ... Mr. T. B. Thalberg
Eridon ... ... ... Miss Clara Jecks
Erotion ... ... ... Miss Marie Fraser
Cupidon ... ... ... Miss Jenny Humm
Euphrosyne ... ... ... Miss Letty Lind
Two Young Zephyrs ... Miss B. Ferrar
Zephyros ... ... ... Mr. Lionel Rignold
Phosphoros ... ... ... Mr.. Somerset
Methonos, King of Cyprus Mr. Alfred Brydone
Lycas, King of Azalea Mr. Bassett Roe
Atalantos, King of Thessaly Mr. Leonard Outram
Nassrad, King of Ethiopia Mr. E. Lennox
The King of Circassia ... Mr. H. Hallard
The King of Thule ... ... Mr. Henry Bayntun
Glaucus, a Sea King ... Mr. H. Arncliffe
Hyla ... ... ... Miss Frances Ivor
Creusa ... ... ... Miss Ada Ferrar
The Princess Psyche ... ... Miss Harriett Jay
In a small pamphlet issued by Mr. Buchanan, he tells us that The Bride of Love is founded on the beautiful Greek legend of Eros and Psyche, preserved for posterity in the Golden Ass of Apuleius, and refers to L’Amour of Molière and Corneille, in which the original l’Amour was Baron, Psyche Mdlle. Molière, and Molière himself Zephyr—and the representation of which piece led to such estrangement between the actor-author and his wife. But, as Mr. Buchanan goes on to say, his “treatment of the legend is practically new and original, and has nothing in common with either the form or the spirit of the Greek drama or with the tragedie-ballet of Molière......Eros is not the Cupid of popular imagination, but the embodiment of fully developed, though still young, godhead......the story of Psyche’s love and loss has been well described as an allegory of the Human Soul on its passage upward......Psyche actually passes through the Shadow of Death, and arising thence glorified, realizes not only the old Greek idea of apotheosis, but the modern Christian sentiment of the resurrection of the spiritualized body.”
We have the key to the story given to us in the first act, “The Summit of a Mountain in the Island of Cyprus.” Eros, eldest born of Ampytrite, is a-weary; the joys that he can give to man he never feels, and he bewails his lonely lot to Venus. She is angered that her temples are deserted in the Isle of Cyprus for the popular speak of none but Psyche, whom they almost worship. The goddess calls down a curse upon her. She proclaims that through her oracle Psyche shall be chained to the Rock, and shall be devoured by a monster of the deep. Zephyros, henchman to Eros, has induced his master to visit earth, but Eros has sickened of the sight of earthly loves and earthly beauty, till his servitor calls on him to look down on Psyche, who is wandering on the mount. Eros is immediately love-stricken, and determines to love her and make her his. In the second act before “The Temple of Aphrodite” come the several kings to sue for the hand of Psyche. She will accept none, for her heart is given to one who in a dream (as she imagines) has kissed her and left upon her finger a ring of betrothal/ This has occurred when Zephyros has, in her sleep, transported her to the summit of the mountain, and Eros has embraced her. Methonos, angry at her non-acceptance of a suitor, goes with his retinue within the temple to worship, and the oracle speaks. Psyche is to be chained to the “Rock of Sacrifice.” After taking leave of her father, she is left secured, but, fainting; is awakened again to life by Eros, who loosens her chains and takes her to his heart. In act three we find Eros full of the joy of life and love. He has realized in his union with Psyche the fruition of all happiness. Psyche is equally happy, but she thinks of the loved ones left on earth who mourn her dead, and she wishes them to be happy in the knowledge that she still lives, and so she persuades Eros to summon them. And her sisters appear, accompanied by Lycas and Atalantas—the two kings whom Hyla and Creusa love with unrequited passion. To make them happy Psyche entreats Eros to exert his power to turn the hearts of the men they love towards them. This is accomplished, but the sisters repay her efforts for their happiness with ingratitude. They flout her with her ignorance of her lord’s name or station, and leave her. Psyche, on the return of Eros, beseeches him to tell her who he is. This for him is an agonising request, for it is written on the tablet of Olympus that:—
Should a god reveal himself
In godlike guise, or name his heavenly name
To one of mortal birth, that mortal’s eye
Never shall look upon the light again.
Fate inspires Psyche to persevere in her request, and Eros is compelled to answer, for he has sworn by the Styx, an oath that even the gods may not take without fulfilment, that he will grant her every request, and so in heartrending accents he discloses his divinity and vanishes from her for ever as Psyche falls stricken to the ground with blindness. In the closing act Eros has returned to Venus’ abode—he prays for death, which, as an immortal, he cannot compass, and so he throws himself on the mercy of his mother. Venus hates Psyche, but maternal love conquers. She speeds her to Olympus to pray of the gods that Psyche may be made immortal. By her commands Zephyros lures her in her blindness to the mountain top. There she falls upon a bank, and revives at the sound of Eros’ voice. His kiss, however, is death to her, and as her mortal spirit passes away Eros mourns her loss; when Venus returns. Euphrosyne is summoned, she sheds upon the body of Psyche the re-animating flowers, and Psyche awakes again to immortality and eternal love with Eros. We have been able to give but the faintest outline of Mr. Buchanan’s play, which, from the rise to the final fall of the curtain, kept his audience in rapt attention. It is instinct with the most poetic feeling, relieved by the humours of Zephyros and the younger gods.
Some idea of the beauty of the author’s lines may be formed from the following extracts:—
EROS, surrounded by his sleeping brethren, apostrophizes the firmament as follows:—
. . . How softly, one by one,
The starry eyes of Heaven are opening!
O Moon, O Stars, what spell have ye to-night
On Eros? Till this hour I dimly guess’d
Why mortal lovers loved to walk by moonlight;
But there they wander in the darkening lanes;
And I, in Heaven, looking on them, share
Their ecstacy and peace. . . . .
Sleep, little ones, and when ye waken up,
Scatter your arrows down like golden rain,
For on the hearts of men they fall like seeds
To make the world divine!
. . . . .
HYLA. We thought thee loveless, yea an icicle,
Devoted to eternal maidenhood!
PSYCHE. And so I seemed—till, at my Lord’s first kiss,
My Soul awoke, even as the frozen world
Wakes at the kiss of Spring. Thus is Love born—
Not with long coaxing like a hothouse flower,
But instantaneously—a happy star
That bursts to life and finds itself in Heaven!
I saw his eyes—they kindled light in mine!
I heard his voice—the music of my dreams!
I took his hand, I fell upon his heart,
And, pillow’d there, I knew it was my home!
. . . . .
EROS. The Lord of all!
Immortal gods, thro’ whom I breathe and live,
If I be Lord indeed of this round world,
Uplift the Shadow! Give me back the Soul
Which ye have taken from me! Say, ye gods,
That Love shall conquer death!
APHRO. Where love abides,
Death hath no victory. Beyond the power
Of e’en immortal gods subsists the law
By which they live and are. That law attests
That Death is but the shadow of a dream!
EROS. She stirs, she breathes! Her eyes are opening!
She lives, she lives!
PSYCHE. Eros, my love, where art thou?
A cloud of brightness—Light—and thou within it,
My Lord, my Master!
Miss Ada Cavendish on her return to the stage was received with long-continued acclamation, and worthily she filled the rôle of the goddess, Aphrodite. Her splendid delivery was an intellectual treat; we must remember that it is as the vengeful, not the loving sensuous goddess she is presented to us. Mr. T. B. Thalberg was at first not at his best and hurried his lines, thus destroying their rhythm, but when he had overcome a pardonable nervousness, he threw himself boldly into his work, spoke well and acted with remarkable fervour and passion. The Zephyros of Mr. Lionel Rignold was modern but humorous; he had evidently rightly conceived the character, but was not quite in touch with his surroundings. Special mention must be made of Miss Letty Lind as Euphrosyne, not for her dancing only, which was encored, but for the clever and appropriate delivery of her text. Mr. Bassett Roe, Mr. Alfred Brydone, Mr. Leonard Outram, and Mr. E. Lennox were also much to be commended. Miss Frances Ivor as Hyla and Miss Ada Ferrar as Creusa, the malicious jealous sister, filled their rôles well. In fact, the cast was a good one. On Miss Harriett Jay, in the arduous part of Psyche, considerable praise must be bestowed; fault might have been found perhaps with her taking the second act in too subdued a key, but then we must bear in mind that she represented a comparatively passionless maiden, and this very same subdued manner gave the greater force to her really fine acting in the closing two acts. As the matinée was given by Miss Jay, and she superintended the production of the play, very great credit was due to her for everything going without a hitch. The incidental music and the song of elemental spirits composed by Mr. Walter Slaughter (who conducted) were most appropriate, and the choral odes by Dr. A. C. Mackenzie were harmonious, and in the best musical style (the one in the fourth act was so beautiful as to be re-demanded). The dresses from design by Karl, executed by Messrs. Nathan, were elegant and correct, and the scenery (which was provided by Mr. Oscar Barrett in anticipation of the production of The Bride of Love at the Crystal Palace on the 10th and 12th June) was beautifully painted by Mr. F. G. Fenton. The principals were honoured with calls at the end of each act, and Mr. Buchanan was heartily applauded on his appearance.
The Sheffield Daily Telegraph (23 May, 1890 - p.4)
[FROM OUR LADY CORRESPONDENT.]
A large audience, consisting chiefly of artistic celebrities and art critics, assembled yesterday afternoon in the Adelphi Theatre to give a warm greeting to Miss Harriet Jay, who, after a long absence from the stage, re-appeared in a new piece by Robert Buchanan, called “The Bride of Love.” The piece, a version of the well-known love story of Eros and Psyche, though it contains some beautiful writing, is too slow and of too classic an interest to please the jaded taste of nineteenth century playgoers, but as a series of picturesque and beautifully mounted scenes it cannot fail to delight artistic people.
The most charming scene in the drama is that on which the curtain rises at the beginning of the third act—a scene in the Garden of Eros, with the summer moon rising over the city domes and spires. Beneath a screen of beech leaves a number of gracefully dressed Greek girls dance a slow and stately measure, singing a hymn to Hymen, of which the music, like that of most of the choruses, has been composed by Dr. A. C. Mackenzie, principal of the Royal Academy of Music. Letty Lind, as Euphrosyne, looking the incarnation of the spring in pale green draperies girdled about the slim figure, with white ribbon bretelles, danced a graceful cymbal dance as only Letty Lind can dance, and of course had an encore.
Miss Harriet Jay looked picturesque and graceful in her beautifully arranged Greek draperies. In the first act she appeared in a Greek dress of soft, creamy white material, the under-dress bordered with gold in a Greek pattern. Heavy gold balls were attached to the upper drapery, and a plain gold waistbelt, gold shoulder clasps, and a gold fillet in the wavy brown hair gave the finishing touches to the picturesque dress. Later in the second act Miss Jay laid aside her chiton or upper drapery, and appeared in the simple white under-dress, with a wreath of small white flowers instead of the fillet on her hair. In the third act in the garden she wore a Greek dress of the palest pink silk muslin, most artistically draped, with pointed sleeves reaching to the elbow, falling from the under part of the arm. At the close of the piece beautiful bouquets were handed to Miss Jay and to Miss Ada Cavendish, who received a warm greeting from her many old friends. She scarcely looked the somewhat trying part of Aphrodite, goddess of love. She wore flowing draperies of white silk, with a gold key pattern, richly jewelled waist belt and shoulder clasps, and a scarf of pale blue muslin suspended from the shoulders. Very beautiful were the dresses worn by Miss Frances Ivor and Miss Ada Ferrar as Creusa and Hyla, the jealous sisters of Psyche. The former wore pale mauve draperies, the under-dress being of soft silk in a lighter shade, the upper one trimmed with a pattern in silver. Hyla, whose hair was elaborately decorated with gold chains and fillets, wore an over-dress of silk crape in a golden green shade, with broad stripes of red and other colours over an under-dress of amber silk. Miss Clara Jecks and two other young loves fluttered about in pretty little wings, rose wreaths, and a modicum of dainty drapery.
Among those in front were Mr. and Mrs. Robert Buchanan, who watched the play from the box to the left of the stage, the former appearing before the footlights at the close, in answer to a loud call for “author.” Miss Annie Irish, in a soft grey dress and grey hat with feathers; Mrs. Horace Neville (Miss Annie Rose), in a fawn costume, with lilac silk vest and floral toque; Miss Rosine Filippi, in a quiet costume of black silk and dark red woollen material; were among the many members of the profession who looked on from the stalls and the circle. Mr. and Mrs. Oscar Wilde, Mr. Clement Scott, and Mr. Rawdon Knowles were among the representatives of criticism and literature present.
The Athenæum (24 May, 1890 - No. 3265, p.683)
ADELPHI—Afternoon Performance: ‘The Bride of Love,’
a Play in Four Acts. By Robert Buchanan.
SHAFTESBURY.—‘Judah,’ a Play in Three Acts.
By Henry Arthur Jones.
MR. BUCHANAN has dramatic grip. Give him a skeleton and he can, as has been abundantly proven, clothe it with respectable flesh; but he has been scarcely wise in meddling with the legend of Cupid and Psyche. It is not, of course, his fault that legends concerning “Olympus’ faded hierarchy” when seen on the stage are associated with the idea of music by Offenbach or Gilbertian satire. One strong scene, in order to vindicate his reputation as a dramaturge, Mr. Buchanan has obtained. It is necessarily that in which Psyche, insisting upon the gratification of her wish, gazes on the unveiled godhead of her spouse, and shrinks back scorched into blindness by the dazzling presence. This portion of the play was powerful and stimulating. The remainder, though written in workmanlike style and not lacking either idea or expression, is as remote from Greek as it can well be. With the treatment of the subject we have no disposition to find fault. What is really wrong is the atmosphere. In spite of himself Mr. Buchanan has yielded to the influence of his predecessors. A Venus who has grown old and is expressly declared to be a bit of a shrew, and a Cupid who goes to bed early at night, having apparently to be up early in order to go to a board school, need the accompaniments of Offenbach rather than of Mr. Slaughter or Dr. Mackenzie; and a plump and indolent Zephyros, who indulges in comic asides and fulfils to Eros the functions which Mercury did not always scorn to render to Jupiter, comes out of the ‘Wicked World.’ During no inconsiderable portion of the play we seemed to be contemplating ‘Cinderella,’ and more than half the third and best act was a species of alteration in the love scenes in ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream,’ with Zephyros for an elderly and obese Puck. Mr. Buchanan’s play was received with much favour. It has none the less, it is to be feared, few elements of enduring vitality.
One lovely piece of pure Greek beauty there was, the dance of Euphrosyne, rendered with an accompaniment of clanging cymbals by Miss Letty Lind. One could not, indeed, resist the wish to see a figure and style so typically virginal and Greek in the character of Psyche. Psyche herself was played with much earnestness, and in the end with some passion, by Miss Harriett Jay. Miss Ada Cavendish, as Aphrodite, spoke with an elocution the rest might copy with advantage. Mr. Thalberg looked well, and gave with much spirit the rôle of Eros. With a better delivery he would be a very acceptable representative of the part. Mr. Lionel Rignold acted with no extravagance in the strange freaks of Zephyros, and Miss Clara Jecks and Miss Marie Fraser were pleasing in subordinate figures. Mr. Buchanan should dip again into Keats before he meddles with a theme such as this, and after so doing will probably henceforward leave it alone.
The Era (24 May, 1890 - p.9)
“THE BRIDE OF LOVE.”
A New Poetical Play, in Four Acts, by Robert Buchanan.
Produced at a Matinée at the Adelphi Theatre,
on Wednesday, May 21st, 1890.
The Goddess Aphrodite ... Miss ADA CAVENDISH
Eridon ... ... ... Miss CLARA JECKS
Erotion ... ... ... Miss MARIE FRASER
Cupidon ... ... ... Miss JENNY HUMM
Euphrosyne ... ... ... Miss LETTY LIND
Zephyros ... ... ... Mr LIONEL RIGNOLD
Phosphoros ... ... ... Miss SOMERSET
Two Young Zephyrs ... ... Miss STEAD
Miss B. FERRAR
Eros ... ... ... Mr T. B. THALBERG
Methonos ... ... ... Mr ALFRED BRYDONE
Lycas ... ... ... Mr BASSETT ROE
Atalantos ... ... ... Mr LEONARD OUTRAM
Nassrad ... ... ... Mr E. LENNOX
The King of Circassia ... ... Mr C. M. HALLARD
The King of Thule ... ... ... Mr HENRY BAYNTUN
Glaucus ... ... ... Mr H. ARNCLIFFE
Hyla ... ... ... Miss FRANCES IVOR
Creusa ... ... ... Miss ADA FERRAR
Psyche ... ... ... Miss HARRIETT JAY
The Bride of Love, as a “note” from the author informed us prior to production, is founded on the beautiful Greek legend of “Eros and Psyche,” preserved for posterity in “The Golden Ass” of Apuleius, a subject already associated with the illustrious names of La Fontaine, Molière, and Corneille. Mr Buchanan claims on behalf of his treatment of the legend that it is practically new and original. In undertaking his task, however, he seems to have had in mind the Gilbertian style of fairy comedy, to have invented a comic god, and then to have repented of his work without finding courage enough to destroy it. How otherwise are we to account for the presence of that Zephyros, who, without any fault on the part of his representative, vulgarises every scene in which he appears, and makes a terrible blot upon a work which is replete with fancy and is rich in poetic feeling? The story of Psyche’s love and loss, as Mr Buchanan reminds us, has been well described as an allegory of the human soul in its passage upward. “In the fourth act of this play Psyche actually passes through the Shadow of Death, and, arising thence glorified, realises not only the old Greek idea of Apotheosis, but the modern Christian sentiment of the resurrection of the spiritualised body.” Well, so beautiful a theme, we take it, should not be marred by the introduction of the modern vulgarisms of a Zephyros with his comic make-up after the fashion of the late Mr Buckstone in burlesque, and his coarse satire directed at a “wicked world,” where wakeful wives learn husband’s secrets as they babble in their sleep, and slippered kings in palaces creep by night to kiss their saucy scullery maids. This introduction apart we have nothing but praise for Mr Buchanan’s play, which held the attention of a large audience on Wednesday, and caused them to forget the brilliant spring sunshine that had been left with something of regret. Eros, the eldest born of Aphrodite, says Mr Buchanan, “is the embodiment of fully-developed, though still young, godhead, and is not in any way to be confounded with the Cupid of popular imagination.” He is, however, the lord of love, though loveless, and we meet him on the cloud-surrounded summit of a mountain on the island of Cyprus. He is in mood impatient and almost angrily argues with Aphrodite, who rebukes his complainings by reminding him that “power and its privileges still are ours—to reign and to be feared.” It would be “better to reign not and be loved,” answers Eros.
There’s not a herd-boy down in yonder dales
I do not envy. He at least can love!
Sits ’mid the shade in the sweet summer time,
With strong arm circled round some brown girl’s waist,
And busses her with a great smacking kiss
To crown his joy withal.
In this mood Zephyros finds him; directs his attention to the beauteous mortal Psyche; obeys his bidding and brings her sleeping to his presence and restrains his new-found rapture by reminding him that—
In the tablets of the gods
’Tis written: Should a god reveal himself
In godlike shape, or name his heavenly name
To one of mortal birth, that mortal’s eyes
Never shall look upon the light again.
Here is foreshadowed the catastrophe that forms the most powerful scene in the play. Psyche is returned to earth bearing upon her hand the ring there placed by Eros. She is wooed by kings and princes, but rejects them all, and in rejecting arouses the wrath of her father. The oracle is consulted; Psyche is condemned to be chained to a rock, and, like another Andromeda, to be threatened by a monster of the deep. “I am thy monster,” presently cries Eros, and Psyche, with chains unloosed, is clasped in his loving arms. In the “Garden of Eros” she should find a happy home; but misery comes of curiosity. Her wish to see her kinsfolk has been gratified, and they have taunted her with being the mistress of a Prince Nobody, and yet another boon she craves—the knowledge of her loved one’s name. Eros is bound to answer; to reveal to mortal the immortal. Psyche is stricken blind. In the fourth act Psyche is again enfolded in her lover’s arms, but dies. Then cries Eros—
O Zeus, send down thy cruel thunderbolt,
And smite me, too! O Death, kind Death, come hither,
And place me with my love!
But hark! the spirit voices sing,
Rejoice, for Love is Lord, for Love is Lord!
Creation wakes and lives, at his sweet call!
Kingly and fair he walks the starry sward,
Rules Heaven and Earth, adoring and adored,
Since He is Lord of all!
Rejoice, for Day hath come, and Night hath fled!
New worlds are wak’ning where his bright feet fall!
Flowers of new life from his soft hands are shed!
He wakes the quick, and shall awake the Dead,
For Love is Lord of all!
“Lord of all!” The words inspire Eros with hope afresh, hope that is encouraged by the words of Aphrodite.
Where Love abides,
Death hath no victory. Beyond the power
Of e’en immortal gods subsists the Law
By which they live and are. That Law attests
That Death is but the Shadow of a Dream!
And then the end.
EROS. She stirs, she breathes! Her eyes are opening!
She lives, she lives!
PSYCHE. Eros, my love, where art thou?
A cloud of brightness—Light—and thou within it,
My Lord, my Master.
The beauty of this story and the poetic charm of these scenes were heightened in no small degree by the incidental music, and notably in the instance of the introduction of Dr. Mackenzie’s epithalamium at the opening of the third act. The sweetly flowing melody of this hymn to Hymen fairly enchanted the house, and its repetition was demanded with an amount of enthusiasm that was not to be resisted. Other tuneful and telling numbers in the song of the elemental spirits and in the dance for Euphrosyne reflected credit on the musical skill of Mr Walter Slaughter, who conducted the orchestra.
The most important part, Psyche, was intrusted to Miss Harriett Jay, who delivered her lines with pleasant distinctness and excellent expression, and, particularly in the scenes of Psyche’s blindness and tearful despair, succeeded in exciting the warmest sympathies of her audience. A most worthy companion picture was the Eros of Mr Thalberg. This young actor, if we remember rightly, made his mark a year or so ago among the “dramatic students,” and his noble bearing, his musical voice, lending additional beauty to the poetry of the lines that fell to his share, the impatience of the earlier scene, the rapture that comes with the love for Psyche, and the woe and great despair after the dread catastrophe, all depicted with rare force and feeling, made a deep impression upon the house, and secured for the clever artist unstinted admiration. Miss Ada Cavendish, who made her reappearance on the stage on this occasion, had a very cordial reception, and quickly reasserted her claims to favour by the vigour and elocutionary skill she brought to bear upon the part of Aphrodite, jealous of Psyche’s fame, determined on her destruction, but repentant and forgiving in the end, and assisting to make the mortal immortal as herself. Mr Lionel Rignold, as far as was possible, avoided the temptations to extravagance offered by the incongruous character of Zephyros. Miss Clara Jecks spoke well the few lines given to her in the part of Eridon; while Miss Frances Ivor and Miss Ada Ferrar gave prominence and distinction to respectively the characters of Hyla and Creusa, Psyche’s jealous and spiteful sisters, by a spell wooed and won by Lycas and Atalantos, at first determined lovers of Psyche, who were represented with much earnestness by Messrs Bassett Roe and Leonard Outram. Miss Letty Lind was warmly cheered for her incidental dance as Euphrosyne; and the minor characters were all in able keeping. The play had the advantage of new scenery by Mr. F. G. Fenton, painted by order of Mr Oscar Barrett, who proposes to give two representations at the Crystal Palace; and in the musical department excellent work was done by Mr Stedman’s well-trained choir. There was loud and general applause after the fall of the curtain, and it was continued until Mr Buchanan appeared in the midst of those who had given such excellent interpretation to his beautiful play.
Manchester Times (24 May, 1890)
[BY OUR LADY CONTRIBUTORS.]
. . .
The most interesting dramatic event of the present week has been the reappearance, after a long absence from the stage, of Miss Harriet Jay, who received a warm welcome from a house packed with her many friends. The mythological drama, the “Bride of Love,” by Miss Jay’s friend and relative, Mr. Robert Buchanan, is a version of the world known story of Eros and Psyche. Though it contains some exquisite prose and verse—notably the songs which Dr. Mackenzie has set to music, and the pretty verses which Letty Lind, as Euphrosyne, repeated so prettily as she scattered flowers on the body of the dead Psyche—except as a series of charming pictures, beautifully mounted, the piece is little likely to please the taste of present day play-goers who crave for more sensation than there is in Mr. Buchanan’s drama. Nothing could be prettier than the pictures presented by the Princess Psyche (Miss Harriet Jay) and her fellow-actors in their artistic Greek dresses, among them being Miss Ada Cavendish (widow of the late Frank Marshall), who is returning to the stage, and will soon be seen in the provinces. The most charming scene was that in the garden of Eros, with the summer moon rising above the city towers and domes, and a crowd of graceful Greek girls treading a stately measure to the sound of a chorus composed by Dr. Mackenzie. Letty Lind never looked prettier or danced more gracefully than in the cymbal dance which followed the chorus. Wonderful was the skill with which she managed her clinging draperies of pale green, which fell to the ribbons that bound her green sandals round the shapely ankles. The loose bodice had bretelles of narrow white ribbon, which also girdled the fulness about the slim waist. Miss Annie Irish, prettily dressed in grey, with a grey plumed hat, Mrs. Horace Neville (Miss Annie Rose) in a fawn cloth dress with full lilac silk vest, Miss Rosina Filippi, in black silk and dark red, Mr. and Mrs. Oscar Wilde, Mr. Clement Scott, and Mr. and Mrs. Robert Buchanan were among those who applauded Princess Psyche from boxes, stalls, and circle. At the close of the performance bouquets were handed to Miss Jay and to Miss Ada Cavendish.
Reynolds’s Newspaper (25 May, 1890)
Wednesday was a busy day in the London theatres, and a remarkable one, for it gave us, not only Mr. Jones’s interesting play of “Judah,” but something still more novel, the dramatization of a Greek myth by Mr. Robert Buchanan, at the Adelphi Theatre. In many respects nothing so beautiful has been seen on the stage in recent years. Had the acting been equal to the authorship, we should have had a most powerful representation. The story of Eros and Psyche is an exquisite legend preserved in the “Golden Ass” of Apuleius. Eros, the eldest-born of Aphrodite, falls in love with Psyche, a mortal. But, in Mr. Buchanan’s words, the eternal doom is that—
In the tablets of the gods
’Tis written: Should a god reveal himself
In godlike shape, or name his heavenly name
To one of mortal birth, that mortal’s eyes
Never shall look upon the light again!
Impelled by doubt and curiosity, Psyche implores a revelation as to the identity of her lover. Eros can refuse her nothing. Psyche is struck blind and dies, but by the favour of Zeus is immortalized and given to Eros for ever. The scene opens on the summit of a mountain in Cyprus, the abode of Aphrodite. It is a pity more care was not taken with the furnishing of this scene. The clouds surrounding the abode of the goddess bear scarcely any resemblance to clouds, and two lumps of wood, plastered over with some artificial flowers, can hardly be taken to represent the Asphodel meads of Heaven. The spirit-sick Eros is induced to the love of Psyche by his comic and somewhat mischievous body-servant, Zephyros. Psyche having refused all lovers, her angry father, the King of Cyprus, consults the oracle. It is decreed, upon the instigation of Aphrodite, who is determined that her son shall now know love, that Psyche be chained to a rock, and devoured by a sea-monster. Chained she is; but Eros carries her away to his enchanted garden, where the fatal secret is revealed, and the destiny is fulfilled. It would be difficult to exceed the beauty of this scene. Before the curtain is drawn, the melodious sound of a flute and the occasional clash of a cymbal is heard. The curtain rises. Maidens in the moonlit garden of Eros are singing an epithalamium, or marriage song, composed by Dr. Mackenzie, principal of the Royal Academy of Music. They also tread a choral dance, weaving in and out and round about in graceful, stately measure. What a charming picture! How beautiful these many-coloured Greek costumes! How they grace and dignify the wearers! Then appears Miss Letty Lind, in the character of the mirth-giving Euphrosyne. Cymbals in hand, she dances a Greek measure to music composed by Mr. Slaughter, the composer of “Marjorie,” who conducted the orchestra. There is the scene as depicted on some old Greek vase. It melts away. The unseen fate moves forward to the impassioned cry of despair of the god as he reveals his fatal secret, and vanishes from the sight of his doomed bride, upon whose cry of woe the curtain falls. In the last act we are taken again to heaven, where, on the intercession of Aphrodite, life is restored to Psyche, and she is immortalized. Mr. Thalberg, who played Eros, looked the part to perfection, and after he recovered from a nervousness which made him monotonous in the first act, declaimed the beautiful lines of his part with rare elocutionary skill and grace. Miss Ada Cavendish was not seen to much advantage in the character of Aphrodite. Excellent actress as she is in many respects, her style was too ponderous and stagy for the conception of the goddess; nor, although she worked conscientiously and carefully, can Miss Harriett Jay be called an ideal Psyche, a part in sympathy with which so much depends. Miss Jay’s mode of delivery is not what could be desired, nor did she convey the notion of the half-spiritualized being whom she was intended to represent. The Zephyros was a somewhat incongruous element. A low comedy character amid serious and tragic surroundings, struck one as a little out of place and taste, Mr. Alfred Brydone, as the King of Cyprus, spoke his lines with great effect; and Miss Francis Ivor and Miss Ada Ferrar were effective as Hyla and Creusa, the jealous and cruel sisters of Psyche. Mr. Buchanan has composed a beautiful play. His blank verse is smooth, melodious, and at times highly poetical. He well deserved the ringing cheers which greeted his appearance on the stage in response to loud calls at the conclusion of the piece.
Lloyd’s Weekly London Newspaper (25 May, 1890 - p.6)
Whatever theatrical respect may have once been entertained for the mythological residents of Olympus has been almost destroyed by the burlesque writer. Nowadays, when the gods appear upon the stage, they are expected to indulge in topical ditties or breakdowns. This was one of the many difficulties Mr. Robert Buchanan had to face in producing, on Wednesday afternoon, his poetical play The Bride of Love. To this spirit of ridicule indeed he made a slight concession in representing Zephyros as a species of comic commentator on the events of the play, and in entrusting the character to such a favourite comedian as Mr. Lionel Rignold has become since he played the Jew money-lender in London Day by Day. Miss Letty Lind, too, from the Gaiety, as Euphrosyne, had one of those dances in clinging drapery in which she excels, and the audience insisted on an encore. There are some exceedingly good poetic passages in the work for Psyche and Eros, and a vein of genuine dramatic interest is struck when the mortal who has become the bride of the God of Love, as the consequence of her persistent demand to know his name, is stricken with blindness and dies, to be afterwards restored to life, at the intercession of Aphrodite, as an immortal. To appease Aphrodite’s jealousy Psyche is, Andromeda-like, bound to a rock, but there is no monster to conquer when Eros appears as her deliverer. The third and fourth acts of the play on Wednesday went very well, the accessories here including, besides new scenery, a couple of choral odes for female voices, composed by Dr. A. C. Mackenzie. The remainder of the incidental music was by Mr. Slaughter. Psyche had a charming representative in Miss Harriet Jay, who more than realised anticipations. Miss Ada Cavendish (the Aphrodite) was warmly welcomed on her return to the stage; Miss Clara Jecks made much of the sprightly Eridon; Mr. T. B. Thalberg was the Eros, and in less important parts Miss Ada Ferrar, Mr. Bassett Roe, and Mr. Leonard Outram distinguished themselves. The play was well received throughout.
The Referee (25 May, 1890 - p.3)
Mr. Robert Buchanan’s four-act poetical play, “The Bride of Love,” was presented to a large audience at an Adelphi matinée on Wednesday. It is founded on the beautiful Greek legend of “Eros and Psyche,” but, as the author declares, has nothing in common with either the form or spirit of Greek drama or with the “tragedie-ballet” of Molière. I would take very short odds that Buchanan began his play with what is now the third act, and that he started with the idea of turning out a serio-comic mythological concoction on the lines of Gilbert’s “Wicked World.” He must have had Buckstone’s Lutin, the “serving fairy,” in his mind’s eye when he invented Zephyros, and doubtless meant a lot of satire when he gave birth to Cinderella’s—I mean Psyche’s—two jealous sisters. When he altered his plan and got into the poetical tragical vein it is a pity he didn’t transform an old and ugly Zephyros into something young and beautiful. He could still have made him an instrument of mischief, and his picture would have been rid of the one big smudge that on Wednesday disfigured it. Even with the smudge there is a lot of beauty in the work, which commanded close attention and liberal admiration.
The author of “The Bride of Love” has given us some lines of remarkable strength and beauty, and some of them have been wedded to lovely music by Dr. Mackenzie. It has been suggested that “The Bride of Love” might with profit be turned to the purposes of opera. The suggestion is a good one, and after the two promised performances at the Crystal Palace—the Palace scenery by Fenton was used at the Adelphi—Buchanan would do well to give it serious consideration. Miss Ada Cavendish came from her long retirement to play Aphrodite—in long clothes, be it understood—and showed her wonted fire. Miss Harriett Jay treated the character of Psyche with much delicacy, and with a full appreciation of the poetry of the part, but she didn’t look it. If Mr. Thalberg, as Eros, was a bit lifeless at first, it was perhaps because the author had made him loveless—also he bit his words up; but, warming to his work with the vision of Psyche, he got on splendidly. The incidental dance, introduced by Miss Letty Lind in the character of Euphrosyne, was voted very pretty and effective, and among those entitled to mention for the excellence of their support were Bassett Roe, Leonard Outram, Ada Ferrar, Frances Ivor, and Clara Jecks. The Zephyros was Mr. Lionel Rignold. Zephyros, as I have hinted, is not a very nice character in a play of this sort, but Mr. Rignold, strange to say, often spoke his blank verse better than his more serious confrères.
Since I wrote the above I have been requested to state that “The Bride of Love” will be transferred, without delay, to the regular bill of London theatre. Buchanan has received offers from three West-end managers.
The Derby Daily Telegraph (26 May, 1890 - p.3)
Another new work that first saw light on Wednesday last, was the long promised poetical play by Mr. Robert Buchanan, entitled “The Bride of Love,” which was produced at a matinee at the Adelphi Theatre. Founded on the mythological story of “Eros and Psyche,” the play is written in exquisite language, and aided by Dr. A. C. Mackenzie’s melodious hymns and choruses, a success was won without so much as a dissentient voice. Unquestionably, writes one of the leading critics, Mr. Buchanan’s play was a relief after the recent surfeit of farcical absurdity and declassicised comedy with which the stage has been surfeited. It was a gala day for the imaginative, and surely the lovers of unadulterated fun will not grudge one afternoon among the flowers of poetry and under the green trees of culture.
There must have been scores of dramatists, continues the same authority, who have gone to the beautiful Greek legend of “Eros and Psyche” for inspiration at the very fountain head. Here we find Perseus and Andromeda; here we trace Pygmalion and Galatea with the god-given blindness, except that the punishment falls here on the woman and not on the man; here is a distinct trace of King Lear perplexed by the vagaries of his daughters; here the germ of the child’s story of Cinderella, her spiteful sisters, and the amorous Prince; here suggestion after suggestion of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” and here also a dramatic position with associations which recall the modern scene in which the gardener’s son, Claude Melnotte, and the proud beauty of Lyons are discovered.
The Dover Express (30 May, 1890 - p.2)
“THE Bride of Love” was most welcome in the person of Miss Harriet Jay, who has won fame for her genius as an actress, for her beauty, and last, and avowedly not least, for her lovely dresses. It is long since the Adelphi Theatre in London has displayed such attire on the stage, whatever it may do in front of the curtain. The play, albeit a powerful and well-acted one, was somewhat heavy, but Miss Harriet Jay was a thing of light and fascination. A propos of her dresses, one, who has a deft pen at describing womanly garbs fresh from the hands of Greek milliners, gives us these particulars: In the first act she appeared in a Greek dress of soft, creamy white material, the under-dress bordered with gold in a Greek pattern. Heavy gold balls were attached to the upper drapery, and a plain gold waistbelt, gold shoulder clasps, and a gold fillet in the wavy brown hair gave the finishing touches to the picturesque dress. Later, in the second act, Miss Jay laid aside her chiton or upper drapery, and appeared in the simple white under-dress, with a wreath of small white flowers instead of the fillet on her hair. In the third act in the garden she wore a Greek dress of the palest pink silk muslin, most artistically draped, with pointed sleeves reaching to the elbow, falling from the under part of the arm. Miss Ada Cavendish wore flowing draperies of white silk, with a gold key pattern, richly jewelled waist belt and shoulder clasps, and a scarf of pale blue muslin suspended from the shoulders. Miss Frances Ivor wore pale mauve draperies, the underdress being of soft silk in a lighter shade, the upper one trimmed with a pattern in silver. Hyla, whose hair was elaborately decorated with gold chains and fillets, wore an overdress of silk crape in a golden green shade, with broad stripes of red and other colours over an underdress of amber silk.
The Penny Illustrated Paper (31 May, 1890 - p. 3)
Most notable of recent matinées was the Adelphi performance of Mr. Robert Buchanan’s mythological play “The Bride of Love,” which was so favourably received that Mr. Horace Sedger is anxious to run it at the Lyric till the provinces claim Miss Ada Cavendish. This proved a musical dramatic poem of signal merit, the music being composed by Dr. A. C. Mackenzie and Mr. Walter Slaughter, the clever composer of “Marjorie.” In “The Bride of Love” that talented and favourite actress Miss Ada Cavendish—far too long absent from the stage—met with an enthusiastic reception, which evidently stimulated her to deliver the stern lines of Aphrodite with the greatest possible artistic effect. In a word, Miss Ada Cavendish imbued the part with that touch of Nature which is the triumph of Art. Mr. Thalberg, the handsome Eros, would have done well to have studied the fine elocution of Miss Cavendish, then he would not have clipped his words and bitten his sentences as he did in the early acts. When this intelligent and rising young actor got into the full fling of his love-making with the beauteous Psyche, he improved materially. The third act was the most dramatic of the piece. It was here that Miss Letty Lind, personification of the poetry of motion, danced her seductive measures as Euphrosyne, and here that some of the most charming verse was spoken, such as this gem from the lips of Psyche:—
Thus is Love born—
Not with long coaxing like a hothouse flower,
But instantaneously—a happy star
That bursts to life, and finds itself in heaven!
I saw his eyes—they kindled light in mine!
I heard his voice—the music of my dreams!
I took his hand, I fell upon his heart;
And pillow'd there, I knew it was my home!
Enjoying the advantage of being acted in its two principal parts by Miss Ada Cavendish and Miss Harriet Jay, “The Bride of Love” went admirably. The sparkling “Puck”-like Eridon of sprightly Miss Clara Jecks, the vivacious Hyla and Creusa of Miss Frances Ivor and Miss Ada Ferrar, and the Lycas and Atalantos of Mr. Bassett Roe and Mr. Leonard Outrum were also praiseworthy, as were the low-comedy and mirth-moving efforts of Mr. Lionel Rignold to assume the lightsome character of Zephyros.
The Graphic (31 May, 1890)
IF Whitsun week is, as usual, barren of theatrical novelties, the week that precedes it has this year been at our theatres one of remarkable activity and enterprise. Mr. Henry Arthur Jones’s new play entitled Judah, at the SHAFTESBURY, would in itself be sufficient to give distinction to this brief period of the present dramatic season; but besides this we have had Mr. Robert Buchanan’s mythological verse play, The Bride of Love, at the ADELPHI; and Mrs. Bancroft’s first essay in the way of dramatic authorship, in the shape of a new two-act play, entitled A Riverside Story, at the HAYMARKET; not to speak of Mr. James Mortimer’s play, entitled Queen’s Counsel, at the COMEDY; or the two matinée productions of Tuesday last. The modern English drama may not yet have reached any very high level; but at all events it is not stagnating. The prizes held out to the successful are brilliant, the ambition of the younger school of dramatic workers is stimulated by the ample encouragement offered them through the constant increase in the number of high class theatres; and the time is clearly at hand when the answer to the Frenchman’s humiliating question, “Y-a-t-il un Théâtre Anglais?” will be too obviously in our favour, even for the readers of the Paris Figaro.
. . .
Mr. Buchanan’s mythological play in four acts is a pretty modification of the old story of how the Princess Psyche came to be numbered with the immortals through her love for the god Eros. Departing from the heathen view, the author treats this lovely fable as an allegory of the Christian doctrine of the progress of the soul through the Valley of Death to life eternal. It is a pity that he should have deemed it necessary to concede to the supposed tastes of modern audiences by introducing a low comedy immortal in the person of Mr. Lionel Rignold; but in other respects it must be allowed that his treatment of his theme is refined, and that some of the lyrics rise to a high level of poetical fervour. Miss Harriett Jay acquitted herself with grace and tact in the trying part of Psyche, and Miss Ada Cavendish, returning to the stage after a prolonged absence, maintained at least the dignified presence of Aphrodite, and spoke her lines with a due sense of their musical cadence. Mr. Thalberg, if he did not exactly “confess the god,” made a fervent and presentable Eros. Music of some merit was provided for the play by Mr. Walter Slaughter and Dr. Mackenzie. Miss Letty Lind’s graceful and elegant dance with cymbals was justly applauded; nothing more picturesque of its kind, indeed, has been seen on the modern stage.
The Theatre (1 June, 1890)
In “The Bride of Love,” produced at an Adelphi matinée on May 21st, and which we can but here barely notice, Mr. Buchanan is at once true and false to his poetical and artistic instincts. Verbal beauties abound, and mythological intricacies are resolved with an ingenuity that is commendable. The low comedy of the play, however, rings false in its connection, and frequently verges on vulgarity, and the possible beauty of the whole is missed through a wilful writing- down to the smaller intellects of an audience. The piece was generally well rendered.
The Bride of Love - continued