“Lady Gladys” - additional material
The Pall Mall Gazette (21 November, 1890)
AUTHOR AND ACTRESS AT VARIANCE.
THE BUCHANAN-LANGTRY DISPUTE.
The theatrical dispute of the hour was brought into the Queen’s Bench Division before Mr. Justice Charles, yesterday. Mr. Robert Buchanan sues Mrs. Langtry for £2,000, on the ground that she did not open the New York season of 1889 with a play he had written for her, entitled “Lady Gladys.” Mrs. Langtry pleaded that the piece was unsuited to her powers, and that therefore under a contract which had been drawn up she was at liberty to reject the piece. She further demands the return of £150 paid in respect of the play. Mr. Winch, Q.C., and Mr. Studd were for the plaintiff, whilst Mr. Lockwood, Q.C., and Mr. Le Breton appeared for Mrs. Langtry.
Mr. Winch, in his opening, detailed how Mr. Buchanan had been asked to write a play in not less than four acts, and with a leading star part for Mrs. Langtry. It was arranged that Mrs. Langtry should pay the plaintiff £150 down and. £150 on the delivery of the manuscript, the royalty being £50 a week, and the two sums of £150, being in advance of it. It was also understood that Mrs. Langtry should have the sole right of performance for three years, and that the piece was to be delivered not later than the 30th of November, 1888, and should be produced in January, 1889. The learned counsel read other correspondence with regard to the personnel of the company, &c., and said the plaintiff set to work and wrote a play. He was not so fortunate as his learned friend, who, he understood, had read a great deal of it.
Mr. Lockwood: Quite enough. (Laughter.)
Mr. Winch said the play was delivered on November 30, and plaintiff wrote complaining that if “Macbeth” were produced as announced the agreement would be broken, Mrs. Langtry replied, returning the manuscript, thinking the wrong one must have been sent to her—the play was unworthy of Mr. Buchanan and of herself.
Mr. Robert Buchanan was put in the witness-box, and there was a desperate conflict between him and Mr. Lockwood as to the exact shade of meaning certain passages in the play (read by Mr. Lockwood) were intended to bear. The question of a “learned dog,” or an alleged learned dog, was also discussed between author and counsel with animation—and amid the audible amusement of the court.
Mr. Lockwood then pointed out on behalf of Mrs. Langtry that the play was precisely what she had not stipulated for, and that she had practically parted with £150 for nothing. He regretted Mr. Buchanan’s “venomous suggestion” that Mrs. Langtry had determined to shelve the play in any case, so that she might produce “Macbeth.''
MRS. LANGTRY IN THE WITNESS-BOX.
The fair defendant was then put in the witness-box. She was neatly and simply dressed, spoke generally in rather tragic tones, and looked as charming as ever. The crowd which had thronged the court by this time was a huge one, and was composed of about equal proportions of literary and dramatic celebrities. Mr. Buchanan and Miss Harriett Jay were present, and two ladies seated on the bench by the judge had also come to see how “the Jersey Lily” would acquit herself of her new rôle.
Mr. Lockwoad elicited that Mrs. Langtry had applied to Mr. Buchanan to write a piece, and, said she, in answer to a further question, “I impressed on Mr. Buchanan that I wanted a good part.”
Mr. Lockwood: Mrs, Langtry, is it true to suggest that you had determined to reject the play before you received it? —Mrs. Langtry: There is not a word of truth in the suggestion.
A long discussion arose at this point between the judge and Mr. Winch and Mr. Lockwood as to whether Mrs. Langtry could be asked if she thought the leading part in Mr. Buchanan’s piece a strong and sympathetic one.
Ultimately it was decided that the defendant’s answer expressing dissatisfaction might be recorded.
Mr. Lockwood: It must be taken that Mr. Buchanan knew for whom he was writing. But the fitness of the play should be decided by the jury.
Mr. Justice Charles: Do you intend that they should read the play?
Mr. Lockwood (embarrassed for a moment) did not reply immediately. Then he alluded to Mr. Merivale’s “Whip Hand” which was read before Mr. Justice Field, “but I don’t know how he liked it.” (Laughter.)
Mr. Winch, in cross-examination, caused some amusement by extracting from Mrs. Langtry the statement that the heroine appeared to think more of the death of a dog in the piece than of the death of the heroine’s father, which was supposed to be an important feature. He also alluded to the arbitration-case about a play by Mr. Haddon Chambers, in which, according to the witness, the woman’s part, when duly written up, was “too strong.”
The further hearing of the case was adjourned until to-day.
The Guardian (21 November, 1890 - p.6)
ACTION BY A DRAMATIC AUTHOR.
BUCHANAN v. LANGTRY.
In the Court of Queen’s Bench yesterday afternoon the case of Buchanan v. Langtry came before Mr. Justice Charles and a common jury. Great interest was shown in the proceedings, the court being crowded.
The action was brought by Mr. Robert Buchanan, the dramatic author, against Mrs. Lillie Langtry, who is now the lessee and manageress of the Princess’s Theatre, London, to recover damages laid at £2,000 for a legal breach of a contract to open her New York theatrical season last year with a play written by the plaintiff. Mrs. Langtry admitted making the contract, but pleaded that one of its terms was that she should not be bound to accept the drama unless it was suited to her own powers and style of acting; that the plaintiff’s play did not suit her or her company, and that therefore she was not liable. Further, the defendant put in a counter claim for £150, which she had paid the plaintiff in respect of the play. Mr. Winch, Q.C., and Mr. Studd appeared for the plaintiff; and Mr. Lockwood, Q.C., M.P., and Mr. Le Breton for the defendant.
Mr. Winch, in opening the case, said that the claim of his client was for a balance due to him for a play which he wrote for the well-known actress Mrs. Langtry, who had already paid £150. In September, 1888, Mrs. Langtry was desirous of having written for her a play which she might produce in New York. On the 10th September Mr. Buchanan received a telegram asking him to meet Mrs. Langtry. On the 14th Mr. Buchanan saw her and had a conversation with her. Mrs. Langtry told him that she desired him to write a play which she might produce in New York, and in which she would take the chief part. Among other things, Mrs. Langtry told Mr. Buchanan that she had been to Paris, and had bought a number of very beautiful dresses, and that the scenes of the play were to be so arranged that she could wear these beautiful dresses. Accordingly Mr. Buchanan, with a prudence that, as events turned out, was very wise, asked Mrs. Langtry to give him an agreement. The agreement was written as follows:—”September 14.—Dear Mr. Buchanan, I accept your offer to write me a modern drama in not less than four acts with a leading star part for myself on the terms proposed, viz., that I should pay you £150 down and £150 on the delivery of the MS., and the sum of £50 weekly during my performance of the piece. It is understood that the above prepaid £300 is on account of the said weekly royalty of £50 a week. It is also understood that I have the sole right of performing the said drama for a period of three years. The piece is to be delivered to me in new York, not later than the 30th of November, and to be produced on or about the 7th of January, in New York City.—Yours truly, LILLIE LANGTRY.”—On the same day Mr. Buchanan acknowledged the receipt of the letter and reiterated the terms on which the play was to be written. In the same letter he informed Mrs. Langtry that she might rely on him using very great efforts to write a play worthy of her talents. On the following Friday Mrs. Langtry again wrote to Mr. Buchanan, enclosing a cheque for £150, and saying that she would prefer not too long a cast, as “nice supers are hard to get in America, and impossible in some parts, though of course if necessary they can be found.” In answer to Mr. Buchanan, Mrs. Langtry wrote the names of the company, and said that there must be a “strong lover’s part” in the piece as well as a strong part that she could offer to Mr. Coghlan, as “Mr. Calvert was not a good stage lover.”—(Laughter.) “Of course,” continued Mrs. Langtry, “you will make me a woman’s and not a girl’s part.” On receiving the deposit Mr. Buchanan put on one side all his other work and began to write the play. The play, which was called “Lady Gladys,” he had not read, though he understood that his learned friend had read it.
Mr. Lockwood: Quite enough of it.—(Laughter.)
Mr. Winch pointed out that Mr. Buchanan had a very great interest in writing a play that would have a long run. Some time afterwards Mr. Buchanan wrote to Mrs. Langtry asking her if there was truth in the rumour given in all the English newspapers that she was to re-open the Fifth Avenue Theatre with a revival of “Macbeth.” “I trust,” said Mr. Buchanan, “that this is not true, as it would amount to a breach of your contract with me. If you, however, desire to change your plans we had better come to some amicable arrangement, as, your season in New York being short, I shall be a heavy loser. I am, however, quite prepared to meet you in any way.” To that letter Mr. Buchanan got an answer in which nothing was said about the revival of “Macbeth.” That letter said—”By this post I return your MS., in sending which I venture to think that you must have made a mistake, as it is so very unlike what you promised. I hope you have discovered the error, and that the right play is now on the way to New York. If, however, it is the play you intended for me, I may tell you that it is not of the slightest service. The part is weak, as is the play. It is unsympathetic, and the surroundings nil. You must remember what we arranged for was a play with a heroine star part, strong, emotional, and sympathetic, and a hero’s part weighty and powerful, such as I could offer to Mr. Coghlan. You have placed me in a serious dilemma. I desired and promised to produce a new play in New York, and relied on you. Now at the last moment I am obliged to seek other plays, for I cannot produce a play so unworthy of you and of me.” After that letter Mr. Buchanan made an effort to compromise the matter, and was willing to let Mrs. Langtry have the play. Unfortunately no settlement had been arrived at, and the question was now left for the decision of the jury.
Mr. Robert Buchanan was called and examined by Mr. Winch. He stated that on September 14 Mrs. Langtry requested him to write for her a play. She said that she would leave the material and the treatment of the play entirely in his hands. Thereupon he spoke of terms, and said that he thought that fair terms would be £50 for every week she played the piece. He asked for the usual deposit down and so much on the delivery of the MS. To these terms she assented. Mrs. Langtry during the interview wrote the agreement given in the opening. A day or so afterwards he received a cheque for £150. Mrs. Langtry stated that she had not a banking account in London, and would have to open one. The play was written and was delivered on November 30, notwithstanding great difficulty in finding Mrs. Langtry. “Lady Gladys” was a play that he had written with the best of his ability, and was a play in which Mrs. Langtry’s part would be that of a “Star.” Mrs. Langtry stated that she had bought some good modern dresses in Paris, and desired to use them. There would be four changes.
Cross-examined by Mr. Lockwood: The question of dress was merely as to period? No; the play was to be a modern play.—When was that discussed? During our conversation. She asked for a piece in which she could use modern costumes.—Are you sure it was on the 14th September only? I saw her on more than one occasion. I saw her, I think, on the previous day.—Was the contract partly made on the 14th? We discussed whether I would write a play.— She said particularly that she did not want a girl’s part? That was put in the letter. I should never have thought of writing her a girl’s part—in the theatrical sense.—When did you set to work? Practically at once, after I got the deposit.—Did you express pleasure at writing a part for Mr. Coghlan? Not in the least. Why should I?—(Laughter.)—What part was for Mr. Coghlan? Edgar Vane. I was not particular that he should play it.—As I understand the play Mrs. Langtry’s part was that of the daughter of a broken down earl? Yes.—There is no harm in breaking down an earl?—(Laughter.)— Theatrically, I suppose not.
The main act turned on the shooting of a dog which was to appear on the stage with Mrs. Langtry? That is an incident of the first act.—In the directions we are told that the dog must be trained to carry out the business of the scene? Yes.— Where was Mrs. Langtry to get this intelligent dog? Almost any retriever would do, as all that the dog had to do was to follow his mistress about.—Did you indicate where Mrs. Langtry could get such a dog? I could have sent her one. There could be no difficulty, as any retriever would follow its mistress.—A great deal turned on the dog? No; he was not killed on the stage.
In the play Lady Gladys marries under an assumed name a man named Gascoigne, and obtains from him a deed of gift, with which she returns to England in order to turn out the father of her husband. Does she not do that merely out of revenge? Not exactly out of revenge alone, but partly to repossess herself of her father’s property.—But her father had died? He is like the dog; he dies?—(Laughter.) Yes; he practically dies on the stage.—He faints on the stage? Yes; but all people that faint on the stage do not die?—(Laughter.) No; I did not say so.—When Lady Gladys returns she turns out the old man? Not absolutely. She makes it unpleasant for him.—(Laughter.)—I don’t mean that she takes him neck and crop. She orders him off the premises? Yes.—Then she ascertains that during her father’s poverty he was in receipt of anonymous gifts from Edgar Gascoyne, her heart melts, and then—curtain? That is a very ad captandum description.
I have left out the humour?—You have left out a good deal. You might describe “Hamlet” or “Macbeth” in the same way.
I have left out the humour. I will read a passage and will ask you to call my attention to any other portion of the play which you consider more humorous. There is a person who plays the part of Major Fitzherbert, an officer on half-pay— very dear at the price—(laughter)—and a Mrs. Pope. Speaking to Mrs. Pope, the Major says, “I say, Mrs. Pope, what a jolly story that was of yours about the fellah who went to India and when he got back found his wife had married another fellah.” Mrs. Pope (referring to some book she had written); “Oh ‘Twice Wedded’—an early effort.”—Major: “Haw, haw, an idea. Why don’t you write a story about a woman who has worn mourning for two husbands walking in a garden and call it ‘Twice Weeded?’ Haw, haw. You are welcome to the title.”—(Laughter.) You take that as humorous? —It is meant to be so. It is meant to be as you read it.
Can you call my attention to any funnier part?—I don’t pretend that it is funny.
Is this a serious play? Yes.—Show me a livelier passage?
The Judge: If you read “She Stoops to Conquer” like that you would laugh at it.
Mr. Lockwood apologised for his want of histrionic ability, and resumed his cross-examination.
Do you really consider the part of Lady Gladys a sympathetic part? Yes.—You were to be sole arbiter as to whether it was sympathetic? Yes; but I offered a compromise afterwards without being able to get a hearing. The contract was broken before that, as she was then rehearsing “Macbeth,” as the English newspapers and Mr. Coghlan, if you call him, will tell you.
Do you suggest that Mrs. Langtry had made up her mind to reject your play before it reached her, and that after paying £150?—Yes, I do.
In re-examination Mr. Buchanan said that the characters from whose parts Mr. Lockwood had read were known in theatrical parlance as comic reliefs. The speech was in character with the man who spoke it.
Mr. Lockwood, in opening the case for the defendant, pointed out that Mr. Buchanan stood in a very different position from that which would be occupied by a painter who had been commissioned to paint a portrait. Mr. Buchanan was bound by the promise he had made and by the contract into which he had entered, and really in respect of the promise there appeared to be not very much dispute between Mr. Buchanan and Mrs. Langtry. Mrs. Langtry asked the plaintiff to write a play on terms one of which was that the leading star part for herself should be strong and sympathetic. She started for America looking forward to the production of a new play which she had promised to bring forward in new York. He regretted that the plaintiff had thought fit to impute to Mrs. Langtry dishonourable conduct of which she could never be capable. The plaintiff’s suggestion was that before seeing the play and after paying a deposit of £150 Mrs. Langtry had determined to throw up the piece and to produce “Macbeth.” That statement was absolutely unfounded. It was unjust as well as untrue, and was unworthy of the talented man who had made it. He contended that the part provided for Mrs. Langtry was that of a woman who could have excited no sympathy in any audience. Lady Gladys might have been played with success by some actresses, though she was unsuitable for Mrs. Langtry, being a woman who acted throughout from vengeful motives—a woman who married fraudulently, under an assumed name, and who obtained by fraud a deed of gift that enabled her to turn out of doors her husband’s father. He urged that Mr. Buchanan had not fulfilled his part of the contract in providing a character suited to the powers of Mrs. Langtry, and that he was therefore not entitled to a verdict.
Mrs. Langtry, examined by Mr. Lockwood, said that in 1888 she was about to go on tour in America and was anxious to produce a new play in New York. She saw Mr. Buchanan in September and asked him to write a modern play with a strong sympathetic part. Mr. Buchanan asked who was in her company. She replied that there were Mr. Coghlan and Mr. Evelyn. Mr. Buchanan expressed pleasure at finding Mr. Coghlan in the company, as he considered him a good actor, and added that he would write a part worthy of Mr. Coghlan. Mr. Buchanan promised to let her know something of the plot before she sailed, but he wrote saying that he had not been able to think of a plot. She was, she believed, in town when she received the play in December. It was not true that she had determined to reject the play before seeing it.
Is it a fact that you had put “Macbeth” in rehearsal before receiving the play?—Not until three weeks afterwards, at New York.
Was a strong and sympathetic part provided for you?
Mr. Winch objected that this was not an admissible question, inasmuch as there was no such stipulation in the contract.
His Lordship pointed out that, whatever may have passed in conversation, the parties had in the most formal manner reduced their compact to writing.
Mr. Lockwood contended that Mrs. Langtry had stipulated for a leading “star” part for herself, and Mr. Buchanan must be taken to have understood what the capabilities of the actress were.
The Judge said that the contract according to the learned counsel was for a strong and sympathetic part. The author said he had supplied such a part. Who was to decide?
Mr. Lockwood supposed the jury must decide.
The Judge asked if it was proposed that the jury should read the play.
Mr. Lockwood said he himself had not had time to read the play, though he should have no objection to taking a part in it.—(Laughter.) In a case in which he appeared for Mr. Hermann Merivale he had to read the play to Mr. Justice Field. He did not know how much his Lordship heard of it.—(Laughter.)
The Judge said that if the highest efforts of dramatic genius were to be measured by Mr. Lockwood’s success on the previous occasion the matter would be left pretty much where it was.
The learned counsel was ultimately allowed to ask Mrs. Langtry whether the part was a sympathetic one and suited to her.
Witness said it certainly was not. The part was one which could not command the sympathy or interest of the audience. Her part was that of a mean and vindictive character. It seemed to her that Lady Gladys cared more about the death of the dog than about the death of her father.—(Laughter.) She knew nothing as to whether the play she rejected had subsequently turned out a success.
The case was adjourned.
The Morning Post (21 November, 1890 - p.6)
MRS. LANGTRY AND MR. BUCHANAN.
The action of Mr. Robert Buchanan against Mrs. Langtry began yesterday in the Queen’s Bench Division, before Mr. Justice Charles and a common jury.
The action was brought by Mr. Buchanan, the dramatic author, against Mrs. Langtry, who is now the lessee and manageress of the Princess’s Theatre, to recover damages, laid at £2,000, for alleged breach of a contract to open her New York theatrical season last year with a play written by the plaintiff. Mrs. Langtry admitted making the contract, but pleaded that one of its terms was that she should not be bound to accept the drama unless it was suited to her own powers and style of acting; that the plaintiff’s play did not suit her or her company, and therefore she was not liable. Further, the defendant counter-claimed for £150 which she had paid the plaintiff in respect of the play.
Mr. Winch, Q.C., and Mr. Studd appeared for the plaintiff; and Mr. Lockwood, Q.C., and Mr. C. M. Le Breton for the Defendant.
Mr. Winch said the action was brought by Mr. Riobert Buchanan, the well-known ajuthor, against Mrs. Langtry, the well-known actress, to recover £150, which he alleged was due to him for writing for the defendant a play called “Lady Gladys.” In September, 1888, Mr. Buchanan received a telegram from Mrs. Langtry asking him to see her on the subject of a play which she desired to have written for her. On the 14th of September of that year Mr. Buchanan saw Mrs. Langtry, and had a conversation with her about it. She told him she wanted a play in which she was to take the chief part, and she added that she had been to Paris and had bought a number of beautiful dresses, and the scenes were to be so arranged that these dresses could be displayed. Mr. Buchanan, with a prudence which was highly commendable, asked Mrs. Langtry to put the agreement into writing, so that there could be no mistake. Accordingly, on the 14th of September Mrs. Langtry wrote the following letter to Mr. Buchanan:—
“Dear Mr. Buchanan,—I accept your offer to write for me a modern drama in not less than four acts with a leading star part for myself on the terms proposed, viz., that I pay you £150 down and £150 on the delivery of the manuscript, and a sum of £50 weekly during the performance of the piece. It is understood that the total prepayment of £300 is on account of the said weekly royalty of £50. It is also understood that I have the sole right of property in the said drama for a period of three years. The piece is to be delivered to me in New York not later than the 30th of November, and to be produced on or about the 7th of January in New York City.
On the same day Mr. Buchanan replied to Mrs. Langtry accepting her offer, and recapitulating the terms of it. He added, “to all this I once more agree, and you may rely on my using my utmost endeavours to produce a drama worthy of your talents and of the occasion. Awaiting the receipt of your cheque for the first sum of £150.” In the postscript he asked Mrs. Langtry to send him a list of the leading members of her company. Mrs. Langtry, in reply, enclosed a cheque for £150, and said she had omitted to say that she should prefer, if possible, not too long a cast, and to tell him also that nice supers were hard to get anywhere in America, and impossible in some parts. In another letter to the plaintiff Mrs. Langtry gave a list of her company, including Mr. C. Coghlan, “leading man,” and Mr. Fred Everill, “comedian and character,” and one young lady, whom she described as “very pretty and ingenue.” There was a postscript, in which she said, “Of course you will make me a woman’s and not a girl’s part.” The contract having been so entered into, mr. Buchanan put all his other work aside to write the play, which was delivered to the defendant on November 30. He (Mr. Winch) had the play in his hand, but he had not the advantage of his learned friend Mr. Lockwood, who, he believed had read a great deal of it.
Mr. Lockwood—Quite enough. (Laughter.)
Mr. Winch said he had read very little of the play, because according to the issue raised by the pleadings the only question was whether there was any term introduced that Mrs. langtry should approve of it. They said there was no such term. It was clear that Mr. Buchanan had a great interest in writing a good play, so that it might have a long run. There was no dispute about the play having been delivered in America on November 30. On December 1 Mr. Buchanan wrote to Mrs. Langtry that he had seen it stated in many newspapers that she was arranging to open at the Eighth Avenue Theatre with a revival of “Macbeth,” but he trusted it was not true, as it would mean a breach of contract with him for the production of his play on January 7. He further said that if she desired to change her plans they had better come to some amicable arrangement, and he was quite content to meet her in any way. He should be sorry if there were any difficulties between them, as he had great faith in the popular qualities of “Lady Gladys.” On December 12 Mrs. Langtry replied as follows:—
Dear SIr,—By this post I return you the manuscript of ‘Lady Gladys,’ in sending which I fancy you have made a mistake, as it is so very unlike what you promised and I expected. I hope by this you have discovered your error, and that the right play is on its way to New York. (Laughter.) If ‘Lady Gladys’ is indeed the play you intended for me, I tell you that it is not of the slightest service to me. The part is weak (as I think is also the play) and unsympathetic, and the surroundings nil. You must remember what we arranged, and you agreed and promised to write for me a play with the heroine a star part—strong, emotional, and sympathetic—the hero of weight and power, such as I could offer to Mr. Coghlan; two or three well defined characters of importance, and others as you may require to fill up the plot. You have placed me in a serious dilemma. I desired, and had promised, to produce a new play in New York, and I relied entirely on you for that play, and now at the last moment I am left to seek for others. I cannot accept and produce a play so unworthy of you and me.”
Endeavours had been made for a compromise, but, unfortunately, they had not succeeded, and no settlement had been arrived at. Mr. Buchanan now sought to recover £150 more, the sum to which he was entitled under the contract, the terms of which were absolute and could not be varied.
Mr. Robert Buchanan, the plaintiff, said on the 10th of September, 1888, he received a telegram, and in consequence called upon Mrs. Langtry. Defendant requested him to write a play for her, and to suit it, as far as possible, to her abilities as an actress. Defendant said she required it to open her next season with in New York in the following January, and desired him to deliver it by the 30th of November. She said she would leave the material and treatment of the play entirely in his hands, and thereupon he spoke of terms, and said he thought a fair price would be £50 weekly for every week she played it. He asked for the usual deposit, so much down, and so much on receipt of the manuscript, and to these terms she assented. Defendant wrote the letter embodying the terms in his presence, and he took it away and answered it. He received a cheque for £150. He set to work and wrote the play, and it was delivered by the 30th of November. Other correspondence having been put to the witness, he said the play was written to the best of his ability, and Mrs. Langtry’s part would be a “leading star part.” Defendant said she had bought some dresses in Paris, and wished to use them, and there would be four changes of dress in the play.
Cross-examined by Mr. Lockwood, who asked whether the question of dress would merely have reference to the period, witness said the piece was to be a modern one. He saw Mrs. Langtry on the 13th as well as on the 14th. On the 13th Mrs. Langtry explained the sort of part she would like written for her, and he undertook to write it.
She particularly said she did not want a girl’s part?—No; she never said that until it was put in her letter. I should never have thought of writing her a girl’s part in the theatrical sense.
Did she say she wanted a strong and sympathetic part?—Yes.
Did you express pleasure at writing a part for Mr. Coghlan?—No; why should I express pleasure?
Mr. Lockwood—I don’t know, I am sure. (Laughter.)
Witness said the part of Edgar Vane, the son of the old man, was written for Mr. Coghlan, but he did not specially desire that he should play it.
As I understand the play, Mrs. Langtry’s part was that of the daughter of a broken-down earl? (Laughter.)—Yes, that would be an apparently correct description.
Mr. Lockwood—Well, there is no harm in breaking an earl down. (Laughter.)—No, we very often do. (Renewed laughter.)
And the brojen-down earl had been deprived of his property, so he contended, by Sir Gilbert Vane?—He had been dispossessed, as it were.
That was his view, though it did not coincide with the view of Sir Gilbert. (Laughter.) And he was living at the park gates?—He was living in the neighbourhood, though not at the park gates.
And the main incident of the play turned upon this, Sir Gilbert, shooting a dog?—Yes.
A “practicable” dog was to appear on the stage with Mrs. Langtry?—Oh, yes; that was an incident in the first act.
And it is a very important incident in the play?—It is. It is meant to be so.
Mr. Lockwood read from the stage directions, “Enter Lady Gladys in riding habit: with her comes a large Newfoundland dog or retriever. N.B.—This dog must be trained to carry out the business of the scene.” Where did you think Mrs. Langtry was to get this intelligent dog?—I think any retriever or Newfoundland would do it.
Did you indicate to her that she would require this dog?—No, but I could have let her have a dog if she had wanted it.
A great deal turns on this dog?—Yes, but he does not turn on the stage. He is shot “off” the stage. No training would be required for a dog to follow its mistress.
Mr. Lockwood—But I am reading your own words. In a moment of anger the dog is shot by Sir Gilbert, and shortly after this Lady Gladys, having married a gentleman of the name of Gascoigne, who dies before the second act, and being a widow of the name of Gascoigne, in order to revenge herself upon Sir Gilbert marries his son abroad in that name?— Partly to revenge herself and partly to recover the home of her childhood.
And to turn the old man out?—Oh, no.
Mr. Lockwood—The earl, having heart disease, dies after the accident to the dog. She marries Edgar, having obtained from him a gift of this place, which had previously belonged to her father, and had been transferred to Gilbert? —Edgar had received a deed of gift from his father, and he gives it to her. He does not know she is Lady Gladys.
And she goes back to turn the old man out?—(Laughter.) She does not absolutely turn him out, but she makes it unpleasant for him—(renewed laughter)—and he goes. (More laughter.)
Then she ascertained that during her father’s lifetime, and while he was in poverty, he was in receipt of anonymous gifts from Edgar. Then her heart melts. Curtain. (Laughter.)—You have left out something. You have described it roughly, as you might describe any play—as you might describe “Hamlet” or “Macbeth.”
Mr. Lockwood said he had no doubt left out the humour, and drew witness’s attention to a dialogue in the play between a Major FitzHerbert and Mrs. Pope, which the learned counsel read in a somewhat matter-of-fact way. The dialogue turned upon the story of a woman who had been “twice wedded,” and the Mjor sjuggested that a narrative should be written under the title of “Twice Weeded.” The learned counsel challenged the witness to show a lighter touch of humour in the whole play.
Mr. Justice Charles said that if the learned counsel were to read “She Stoops to Conquer”in such a style as that no one would laugh.
Witness, in further cross-examination, said he considered he wrote a strong and sympathetic part such as Mrs. Langtry desired he should write for her. Witness further said that the defendant had broken her contract with regard to opening with the paly by rehearsing “Macbeth.”
Do you mean to suggest that Mrs. Langtyr had made up her mind to reject this play before she had read it?—Yes, that is what I suggest. She could not have produced it.
Re-examined—The parts read were in the nature of what was known as “the comic relief.”
This was the plaintiff’s case.
Mr. Lockwood, in opening for the defence, ridiculed the idea that plaintiff was under the arrangement to be the sole judge of what was a strong and sympathetic part. The defendant had paid £150 for the play, and looked forward with interest to receiving it, and it was an absolutely unfounded statement to say that she had made up her mind to reject it before it reached New York. Instead of Mrs. Langtry’s part being a sympathetic one, it was the part of a woman who could desire not sympathy from the audience, and who was a kind of avenging angel. With regard to the wrong done to her father in the first act, the character induced a man by fraud to become her husband, she obtained from him, on the eve of her marriage, which was induced by fraud, a gift of the property which was conveyed to him by his father, and then returned to this country for the purpose of driving from his house the father of her husband, whose property and whose hand in wedlock she had obtained by fraud.
Mrs. Lillie Langtry, the defendant, said she first saw plaintiff on September 13. She asked him to write her a modern play with a strong sympathetic part. He asked who was in her company, and she said Mr. Coghlan, &c. He said he was very glad Mr. Coghlan was in her company, as he was a fine actor, and he would take pleasure in writing a good part worthy of him. Plaintiff promised to let her know something about the plot before she sailed, but he wrote saying that the time was so short that he could not decide on a plot, and asked her to leave it to him. On the second occasion she did not think anything further passed except that she impressed upon plaintiff that she wanted a strong and sympathetic part. She thought she received the manuscript at Toronto, but could not say for certain, as they were playing in different towns every night. She received it a day or two after the 30th of November, but that was because she was not in New York, and she did not complain of that. It was not true that she made up her mind to reject the play before she saw it. They rehearsed “Macbeth” about three weeks after.
Mr. Lockwood proposed to ask the witness whether the part was strong or sympathetic, and considerable discussion took place. Mr. Winch objecting.
Mr. Justice Charles said an actress might say that a part was not a strong, sympathetic, or emotional part for her, but who was to decide?
Mr. Lockwood—The jury. (Laughter.)
Mr. Justice Charles asked whether if the the jury were to read the play as counsel’s précis, would that be enough to enable them to judge?
Mr. Lockwood—I don’t mind taking a part in it, so long as it is only the Major. (Laughter.) It must be a small one. (Laughter.)
Mr. Winch was understood to inquire what part he should take. (Laughter.)
Mr. Lockwood—Oh, perhaps you will take the dog. (Laughter.)
His Lordship said he was under the impression the contract was contained in the letters, but admitted the question, making a note of the objection.
Witness said the part was neither a strong nor a sympathetic one.
Cross-examined—She attached importance to the stipulation that the part should be strong and sympathetic, but it was not included in the letters because they were hurriedly drawn up. The part of Lady Gladys would not have interested the audience. The father died in the first act, and it was some time after his death that Lady Gladys did all these things. It must have been to please herself. (Slighht applause.) It was, in her opinion, a mean, vindictive character, and it seemed to her the motive which actuated Lady Gladys was the death of the dog more than the death of her father. (Laughter.) Mr. Buchanan wrote her a letter saying that the dog would have to be trained. He said she should want a most intelligent dog.
Mr. Winch—But the business of the dog in the scene is simply to follow you about.
Mr. Justice Charles—But this is a very small part of the case.
Mr. Winch said he asked the question, as Mr. Lockwood had made a good deal of the matter in trying to decry the play.
Mr. Lockwood—No, no.
Cross-examination resumed—Mr. Coghlan was not with her when the play was received. He left temporarily to get the scenery for “Macbeth,” which was to follow this play. They had to look a long way ahead. This play might not have run a day. She had made arrangements to appear later on in “Macbeth.” At present she was thinking what she should act next, but she hoped “Cleopatra” would run a day or two. (Laughter.) She had never known a play run to pay for more than four weeks with her in New York, and after this play she contemplated giving “Macbeth” for four weeks, filling up the remaining two weeks of her engagement with old plays. A paragraph as to the production of “Macbeth” in the Era was accurate, and she now understood how the suggestion that she was going to present it first arose. She commenced with old plays.
Re-examined—They commenced in new York with “Peril,” followed by “As in a Looking-Glass,” and then “Macbeth,” and they had to work night and day to get the latter ready.
The hearing was adjourned.
The Scotsman (21 November, 1890 - p. 6)
MR BUCHANAN’S ACTION AGAINST MRS LANGTRY.—In the Queen’s Bench Division yesterday, before Mr Justice Charles and a common jury, the case of Buchanan v. Langtry came on for trial. Mr Robert Buchanan, the well-known dramatic author, sued Mrs Langtry, who is now the lessee and manageress of the Princess’ Theatre, to recover damages laid at £2000 for alleged breach of a contract to open her New York theatrical season last year with a play written by the Plaintiff. Mrs Langtry admitted making the contract, but pleaded that one of its terms was that she should not be bound to accept the drama unless it was suited to her own powers and style of acting, that the plaintiff’s play did not suit her or her company, and therefore she was not liable; further, the defendant counter-claimed for £150, which she had paid the plaintiff in respect of the play. Mr Winch, Q.C., and Mr Studd appeared for the plaintiff, and Mr Lockwood, Q.C., and Mr Le Breton for the defendant. Mr Winch having opened the case, Mr Robert Buchanan was called and narrated the circumstances that led to his writing the play of “Lady Gladys.” Mrs Langtry, he said, made complaints with reference to it. Q.—Was there anything said about the dresses in the interview you had with her? A.—Yes. She said she wished to use some attractive modern dresses, and had bought some at Paris for the purpose. It was understood that there would be four changes of dress in the course of the play. Cross-examined by Mr LOCKWOOD—Mrs Langtry asked me to produce a play in which she could use modern costumes, and in which she would have a strong sympathetic part. Q.—A dog was to appear in the first act? A.—Yes. Q.—Where do you think that Mrs Langtry was to get this very intelligent dog? A.—I think almost anywhere. If necessary, I could have sent her a dog to suit her purpose. There was no difficulty in getting a well-bred Newfoundland or retriever to follow Mrs Langtry on the stage. It was not to be killed there. Mr LOCKWOOD, having next addressed the Court, called Mrs Langtry. Q.—Is it true to suggest that you had determined to reject the play before you received it? A.—No. Q.—Is it true that you had put “Macbeth” in rehearsal? A.—We rehearsed it at New York three weeks afterwards. Q.— Is the part of Lady Gladys a “strong and sympathetic part?” Mr Justice CHARLES doubted whether this question could be put. Mr LOCKWOOD argued that it could, which Mr WINCH denied. Mr Justice CHARLES said, although he doubted whether the question ought to be put to the defendant, he would allow it to be answered. Mrs LANGTRY then asserted that the part of Lady Gladys was not a strong or sympathetic one. The hearing of the case was adjourned until today.
Reynolds’s Newspaper (23 November, 1890)