ROBERT WILLIAMS BUCHANAN (1841 - 1901)

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BUCHANAN AND THE LAW (2)

 

“Alone in London”

 

One noticeable difference between Colonel Sinn’s American production of Alone in London and the English version at the Olympic Theatre is the fact that the former made a star out of Cora Tanner, who played Annie Meadows, the hapless heroine of the piece. In 1885 Colonel Sinn had acquired the American rights to the play from Buchanan for two years and Cora Tanner was still being tied to the post as the sluice gates opened in March, 1888. Amy Roselle, on the other hand, the original Annie Meadows of the Olympic Theatre, only lasted a month. Harriett Jay then took over the part. Amy Roselle sued Mrs. Conover, manageress of the Olympic, for wrongful dismissal. And she also made a claim against Robert Buchanan for slander. (By the way ‘enceinte’ means pregnant - I had to look it up so I thought I’d save you the bother).

 

The Times (19 January, 1887 - p.3)

HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE.
QUEEN’S BENCH DIVISION.
(Before MR. JUSTICE GROVE and a Special Jury.)
ROSELLE V. CONOVER.

     Mr. Lockwood, Q.C., and Mr. Henry Kisch were counsel for the plaintiff; Mr. Kemp, Q.C., and Mr. Boxall were counsel for the defendant.
     This was an action by a married woman (Mrs. Arthur Dacre), who is an actress known as Miss Amy Roselle, against a theatrical manageress for slander, wrongful dismissal, and arrears of salary involving a breach of contract. The defendant denies the publication and pleads as to the contract exoneration and rescission. The case appeared to excite considerable interest, as the court was densely crowded in every available corner; among those present were many eminent members of the theatrical profession. After some difficulties as to getting a jury were overcome, for only eight special jurors appeared in the box, and the remaining four were not easily forthcoming,
     Mr. H. KISCH opened the pleadings, and
     Mr. LOCKWOOD stated the plaintiff’s case. He said the plaintiff complained of serious injuries and slander on her professional reputation; that she had wilfully and purposely cut out part of an act in a piece called Alone in London, played at the Olympic Theatre from November 2, 1885 , to January 15, 1886, under the management of Mrs. Conover. Of this he gave the most graphic and humorous description, and excited a great deal of merriment by explaining theatrical terms “cue,” “understudy,” &c., of which he professed entire ignorance, and endeavouring to elicit an explanation from the Bench to which in one instance (“cue”) his Lordship acceded. Then Mr. Lockwood said in future after this able definition none of Her Majesty’s Judges would be able to say they did not understand the term. The plaintiff and her husband (Mr. Dacre) had been down in the Isle of Wight in September, 1885, when she was applied to by telegram by Mr. Buchanan to accept an engagement to play the leading rôle in the piece—that of Annie Meadows or “Nan” at a salary of £30 a week, six weeks were guaranteed, and an agreement was drawn up on October 10, 1885, embodying these conditions. Owing to some hitch in the scenery the production of the piece was delayed until November 2, and the plaintiff had generously foregone a week and a-half’s salary. The play, though written by Mr. Buchanan and Miss Jay, did not prove a success, indeed, it fell terribly flat. And as the loss on the undertaking was, it was alleged, some £200 a week, Mr. Boss, the defendant’s business manager, proposed that the plaintiff should accept half salary, as many of the other artists had done the same. This the plaintiff declined to do. Shortly after this the plaintiff discovered she was enceinte, but this circumstance had been cruelly and indelicately fastened on by the management in order to get rid of the plaintiff and prevent a financial failure. In fact, her condition did not in the least interfere with the plaintiff’s acting, for her baby was not born till March 28, 1886. Mr. Boss, however, wrote a harsh letter saying the plaintiff ought not to have taken the engagement, as she knew her state and could not stay; that Mrs. Conover, had she known it, would never have ratified the agreement. To this Mr. Dacre replied that he quite dissented from all this, but, if the defendant wished, his wife would take a fortnight’s notice and retire after the six weeks. He was naturally indignant at this, and had written some angry letters, which were taken up by Mr. Buchanan and the defendant, who commenced actions thereon, but then thought better of it and withdrew and had to pay the costs. Meanwhile, Miss Jay, behind the back of the plaintiff, had been rehearsing the part of “Nan,” whereas she had first played the subsidiary part of “Tom Chickweed, the London  waif.” And it was evident that the management wished to get rid of Miss Roselle, who continued to perform her part as forcibly and as pathetically as ever she did down to December 2, 1885. On that evening, through pure inadvertence, as often happened, the plaintiff had omitted a few unimportant lines with Miss Jay (Tom Chickweed) through mistaking the “cue.” But it was wholly immaterial and did not interfere with the action or progress of the piece. No notice was taken of it at the time, but next day the plaintiff received a letter from the defendant’s solicitor enclosing her £30 and saying her engagement was terminated on December 4, and she did not act there again. The plaintiff had made an offer to retire on the 5th, but that was not accepted. Miss Jay then assumed the part of “Nan” at a salary of £10 a week instead of £30. Now the remarks of the defendant that the plaintiff had knowingly cut out portions of an act in order to spoil the piece and injure Mr. Buchanan were wholly gratuitous, and made to Mr. Herbert Standing and several other people. Under these circumstances the plaintiff sought for damages for the slander and the breach of contract as above set out.
     Miss Amy Roselle, called, said she was Mrs. A. Dacre, and about 16 years in the profession, taking many leading parts in London. In September, 1885, she was in the Isle of Wight with her husband. She received several telegrams from Mr. Buchanan offering an engagement and £30 a week salary. She got an agreement in writing from Mr. H. Boss, and her part on October 4th and 10th. The piece, Alone in London, opened on November 2. I accepted, she said, half a week’s salary before that. I played Nan (Annie Meadows) from that date to December 2 every night. The defendant came often to my dressing room during the run of the piece. She said Buchanan was running her into all sorts of unnecessary expense, and she was losing much money, so much as to compel her to close the piece. I think I gave satisfaction to the management up to November 20; there were no complaints. Boss then wrote me a letter. He was business manager. I had acted in a matinée on the 14th. He asked me to take half salary for that performance. The defendant said on that evening (20th) she was sorry I was asked to take it, as I was worth all she gave me for the piece. The defendant said “The fact is I am losing near £200 a week, and there was only £15 in the house at the matinée. I have already lost, and am losing, so much that my trustees will not allow me to continue much longer the management of the theatre.” There was a conversation the same evening between my husband and Boss, in consequence of which I requested my husband to write a letter on November 21 to Boss. On November 28 a letter was handed to me from Boss. It stated that I must have been aware of my condition. If Mrs. Conover had known she would not have ratified the contract. I had experienced no detrimental effects so far from the piece I was playing. Up to this time no one at the theatre was acquainted with my condition. Afterwards I had reason to complain, and I sent for Mr. Buchanan, one of the management. December 2 was the last night I played. Two of the cues, as to kissing hands in the scene were the same. I was on stage with Tom Chickweed then. We had to wish each other “good bye,” and he kissed my hand. I then had to go to the gate, and should have stopped and said, “Oh, you will come again, promise.” I mistook the first “good bye” for the second, and went straight off the stage.
     To the JUDGE.—Kissing my hand was the cue to exit. No actual result ensued from the omission of a few lines. It did not interfere in my judgment with the action of the play in the smallest degree. It frequently happens that words are omitted in a performance. No complaint was then made of my so doing. Next day I received the letter, December 3, from Martin. (The letter was read.) It is not true that I purposely omitted the words in question on that night. I answered the letter next day. (Letter read.) The play ran till January 15. I claim salary to that date, and as special damage, £180, at £30 a week. I claim £10 for a matinée. I performed my part satisfactorily at that performance and all through the run of Alone in London. My son was born on March 28, 1886. No explanation was given to the public of my sudden dismissal from the theatre. After my dismissal I advertised in the Era for an engagement as I usually do.
     Cross-examined by Mr. KEMP, Q.C.—Before I undertook the part in this performance the play was read to me by Miss Jay. I knew the story, that of a brutal husband who tries to murder his wife. I did not know Mrs. Conover wished Miss Jay to play my part, but she (Miss Jay) wished me to do it. There is a moderate amount of physical exertion in it, and I fell into Mr. Standing’s arms. Miss Jay did not tell me my condition would prevent my playing the part. I did not deny the rumour of my state. I meant to have played as long as I was able. I was quite well, and I did not faint away at rehearsal. My husband did not suggest engaging another lady till I was better. I did not complain of Miss Jay or sneer at her. She did not complain of my husband’s insulting conduct towards her. My husband was forbidden to come inside the theatre. I did threaten not to play if he were refused admittance. He was then admitted, but I did not know if he was to confine himself to my dressing room. I was not on speaking terms with the defendant then. She caused an unpleasant letter to be written on November 21. I was much annoyed at it. I thought it very rude to hint I was spoiling the play; it said “jeopardize the success of the play.” I knew I was doing my work properly. I knew my husband wrote an angry letter to the defendant on November 22. I showed the defendant’s letter to Mr. Hare. Mr. Dacre also wrote to Mr. Buchanan complaining of a coarse and insulting letter being written to me. It mentioned a very delicate matter in a very coarse way. I consider the whole letter a foul insult. I will not assume that my condition could possibly interfere with my proper performance of the piece. My indignation had not then passed away, nor has it now. (Laughter.) The “cue” is sometimes a piece of “business” and sometimes the ending words of a sentence. An advertisement saying I was “resting” (a well-known term in the profession) was published in the Era without my consent. I complained of it to the editor, and it was altered. I should have taken another engagement if one had been offered me before March, 1886.
     Re-examined by Mr. LOCKWOOD.—Most of the engagements at the theatres are made in December before Christmas.
     Mr. KEMP.—I intend to say the lady omitted the lines purposely.
     Mr. JUSTICE GROVE.—You cannot ask the jury to find it if you have not pleaded a justification.
     The witness.—It is quite untrue I omitted the lines on purpose. Even if malicious enough to have thought it, I would not have dared to do it. I had played with Miss Jay for 14 days though indignant with her. We have sometimes to kiss on the stage when we don’t like people. (Laughter.) There was no suggestion that I had left the stage in an improper or unusual manner. The defendant never suggested I knew of my condition when I entered into the engagement, and, in fact, I did not know it then. Buchanan had told me they had spent so much money that even if the theatre was crowded it could not pay. I think they meant to try and induce me to reduce my salary after a short time. The whole management was unusual. The defendant was in and out of the theatre, but Buchanan managed everything. There may be some rude expressions in my husband’s letters. Mr. Buchanan made some extraordinary suggestions as to breaking the engagement to my husband; i.e., closing the theatre for a night; transferring the management from Mrs. Conover to himself; giving a matinée. Mr. Dacre was not excluded because he stood in the passage and insulted Miss Jay. I was indignant with the entire management, Mrs. Conover, Miss Jay and Mr. Buchanan. I never heard the lines omitted bring down the gallery at any previous performance. I had always repeated the lines before. I certainly did not “bounce off” the stage. It was a long leave-taking scene, and we said good-by to each other. I allowed her to kiss my hand then as part of the “business.” They certainly did not applaud Miss Jay at that scene. I thought Mr. Boss’s suggestion very indelicate. There was no suggestion that my playing in the piece would injure the play until I had refused to play at half salary. After these letters my husband was refused admission to the theatre. I connected the two circumstances together. I was never compelled to alter my “business” as to being carried or dragged off the stage, nor was any fault found with me in that respect.
     Mr. Herbert Standing called, said.—I am an actor and played in Alone in London, playing the villain. I was “disposed of” satisfactorily at the end of the play. (Laughter.) I played the whole run of the piece; I “persecuted” Miss Roselle the whole piece through; there was nothing wrong in her acting on December 2. I observed no omission or interference or confusion on the stage. She played in the most artistic and finished manner from first to last. I knew it was intended Miss Jay should play the plaintiff’s part with me in the provinces; she had rehearsed it with me and other principals “to oblige the management” in London. The defendant on December 3 said, “This is a pretty fine thing.” I said “What fine thing?” She said, “Why Miss Roselle walked off the stage with the intention of deliberately insulting Miss Jay; to spoil the piece and shut up my theatre!” She said the plaintiff had cut out part of the scene. I said I did not think the plaintiff was capable of it, and was sorry to hear she thought so and went on to the stage. She repeated this several times. The omission would be quite trivial and would not impair the success of the scene. They are often made in playing. The defendant said the piece was not paying and she was losing money. I accepted a reduced salary for the benefit of experience in London.
     Cross-examined.—I believe and hope I am a leading actor. I appeared in every scene with the plaintiff in Alone in London. I inquired of the defendant whether the plaintiff had left. I repeated what the defendant said because I was asked. I noticed no signs of weakness or ill-health in the plaintiff, she was quite equal to being “Alone in London!” (Laughter.) I did not say to Mr. Buchanan at rehearsal “For God’s sake don’t press her to go on, or she’ll break down.” I had to drag the plaintiff off to tie her to a stake, but we mutually assisted each other. She walked off on the tips of her toes.
     Mr. KEMP.—She is a light little thing?
     The witness.—Pardon me! (Laughter.)
     Mr. KEMP.—You are a tall fine man.
     The witness.—Thank you. It was a dangerous scene for any one to play, for him and her, especially if in delicate health. The piece succeeded in the country and made much money when Miss Jay played the leading part. I only carried her the first night as she was so very nervous. I dragged her in the same manner as the plaintiff. She wobbled a good deal on her toes. (Laughter.) Miss Jay did not fall down. It was dangerous at the bridge because there was no bed, as is usually placed, to catch us if we fell. I played 10 years at the Criterion where there are no bridges.
     Re-examined.—Miss Jay asked me to carry her across the bridge. Pieces vary in town and country as to failure or success. To “create” a part commands a much larger salary, and Miss Roselle created this part. Some of our rehearsals lasted four to six hours, sometimes till 4 a.m. with the scenes. They were irregular, as the scenes were not set. The carpenters were hammering and sawing while we rehearsed; it was very trying, I complained and nearly threw up my part in consequence of it.
     Mr. Dalton Somers, defendant’s stage manager, was the next witness, and said he played in Alone in London with the plaintiff; her acting was simply perfect as “Nan,” no sign of weakness or ill-health was visible. On December 3 he was at the defendant’s office when she said the plaintiff had purposely cut out a portion of the scene, and in consequence Miss Jay would play that part that evening. I was, he said, to tell the “Waif’s” understudy. It had spoilt the scene, that is all. The plaintiff had done it purposely, she said, to insult Miss Jay. She said this several times in conversation. I declined to accept a reduced salary. I did not observe the plaintiff’s condition until I was told of it.
     Cross-examined.—I generally superintend the stage and the acting of the artistes on the stage.
     Mr. Leonard Boyne said he had had great experience as an actor and now played in Sophia at the Vaudeville. He played in Alone in London, and knew the plaintiff as an actress for 16 years. He was a great deal with her on the stage in Alone in London. I thought, he said, her acting of Nan up to the last artistically perfect. I noticed no failing health or ill effects up to December 2. The defendant asked me at the wings if I had noticed the plaintiff’s condition. I said I did not. She jokingly said, “What a fool you are!” The housekeeper of the theatre was there then. Omissions frequently took place, but not intentionally.
     Cross-examined.—I did not know the plaintiff refused to act if her husband was excluded from the theatre. I did not know it was asserted that Mr. Dacre had insulted Miss Jay. They said he was officious at the theatre.
     Re-examined.—This was a week or so before the plaintiff left the theatre; that the plaintiff refused to come down and act.
     Mr. Percy Bell, who acted Jenkinson in Alone in London and was on the stage at the time of the alleged omission, said he had not noticed it. There was no confusion nor was the scene spoilt. The plaintiff’s was a very fine performance; no trace of failing health or fatigue. He had been asked to accept a reduced salary by the management.
     Cross-examined.—He was reading a paper (the Daily Telegraph) when the alleged omission was going on, and he had not told Miss Jay that he had not noticed anything. He would have noticed anything obviously wrong or any confusion.
     To the Jury.—The plaintiff’s exit was my cue. There was no interruption in following on in the action of the play.
     Mr. John Tresahar played Spriggins, a lively part, in Alone in London, and watched the performance from the wings on December 2. He noticed nothing particular then; no confusion or interference with the play. The plaintiff’s acting was quite as good as on any previous occasion. It was a powerful performance; fine, full of pathos and vigour.
     Cross-examined.—It would require a good deal of physical exertion. He was at the second wing on the O. P. side. He was not aware that any of the scene had been omitted.
     Mr. Burnham said he was one of the two acting managers at the Olympic. About the end of November, 1885, he told the defendant that the plaintiff was willing to accept a fortnight’s notice after the six weeks provided her husband was treated properly and admitted to the theatre. He thought Miss Jay felt annoyed and insulted at Miss Roselle. She was, they said, to be got out of the theatre. He thought her performance was excellent in the piece.
     Cross-examined.—I cannot give you the exact words used about getting Miss Roselle out of the theatre. I had an unpleasant dispute with Mr. Buchanan. He treated me very badly; he sold the piece. I do not know if he took out a warrant against me. I did not bolt from it. I did not tell Buchanan I had sold the piece for £250 when I had got £350 for it. I do not know if I have the telegram he sent. After a lot of fuss the charge was withdrawn and apologized for. I would not remain at the theatre because Buchanan was so “beastly mean.” It is a well-known trait in his character, though he is a very clever author. It was through my exertions that the piece was a success. I ran it for 100 nights. I should be sorry to have anything more to do with Mr. Buchanan. I came up to town I think and started a dramatic agency. I should be very pleased to see you there.
     Mr. KEMP.—Frankly, I should not be pleased to see you. (Laughter.)
     Re-examined.—I had no warrant or any writ served on me. A summons was taken out but withdrawn.
     Mrs. Ephgraves said she was housekeeper at the Olympic and the plaintiff’s dresser. She left on her own notice. She was on the stage during the scene complained of on December 2, but observed nothing exceptional; no confusion or insult or interference with the action. The plaintiff acted then as well as ever. The defendant said in the kitchen, “That woman is not going to play.” I, said witness, asked who? She said, “Miss Roselle.” I was to get the room ready for the understudy. The defendant complimented Miss Jay and said she ought to have played it from the first. She said Miss Roselle had “cut” Miss Jay purposely and “crabbed” her the night before to some gentlemen in the passages. I heard the conversation before December 2 that Mrs. Conover asked Mr. Boyne if he knew the plaintiff was going to have a baby. He said, “No.” She said, “What a fool you are!” Mrs. Conover asked me if Miss Roselle was well. More than once I said “Yes.” I left Mrs. Conover on January 1, 1886. We had a row. Mrs. Conover asked me to stay, and said she would raise my money from 12s. to £1.
     Cross-examined.—The row between us was about dusting a piano, which was no part of my duty to do. I did not tell Mrs. Conover that I had noticed Miss Roselle was in the family way. I did dress her for the performances, but I had observed nothing.
     James Mortimer, examined, said,—I am occasionally a dramatic critic and late editor of the Figaro. On November 23 I was in front. I thought Miss Roselle played admirably. I saw no sign of ill-health. Mrs. Conover told me Miss Roselle was not very well. I went behind the scenes and asked Miss Roselle about it. She said she was not at all ill. I did not know of any dispute at that time between her and the management.
     Cross-examined.—I do not think the nature of the illness was indicated to me. The part required much physical exertion to play it properly.
     Miss Annie Rose (Mrs. Horace Neville) said,—I witnessed the performance of Nov. 25, and I noticed nothing in it indicating fatigue or ill-health. I thought it excellent.
     Mrs. Stirling, also an actress, said,—I saw the piece played about two or three weeks after its production. I saw no sign of ill-health or fatigue in Mrs. Dacre’s performance.
     Mrs. Hawkins spoke to the same effect.
     Mr. J. L. Toole, examined, said that dropping lines on the stage was by no means unusual. It had happened to himself. He had also at times introduced lines which were not in the play. (Laughter.) (The lines which had been left out by Miss Roselle were here pointed out to the witness.) In his judgment the mistake was a very natural one, owing to the similarity of the cues.
     Mr. LOCKWOOD.—Speaking as a manager, would you not regard it as a serious accusation that a lady in Miss Roselle’s position should be accused of purposely omitting the lines in her part?
     Mr. KEMP objected to this question, and
     The learned JUDGE ruled that it was inadmissible.
     Mr. John Hare, of the St. James’s Theatre, gave evidence to the same effect as Mr. Toole; and Mr. Dacre, the husband of the plaintiff, was then called and examined. He remembered having an interview with Mr. Buchanan at the Olympic Theatre, in which he told Mr. Buchanan, with reference to an announcement which had been made, that his wife would not consent to have her salary reduced as proposed. He mentioned at the same time that his wife was enceinte, but not so as to interfere with her playing for some months. Up to this time no word of complaint had been made of her incapacity in any way. He told Mr. Buchanan that his wife would resign at a fortnight’s notice at the end of the six weeks. Mr. Buchanan replied that everybody would have to take lower salaries or go at the end of six weeks; and he said there were many ways of breaking an engagement if necessary—one being that if he paid for the guaranteed time that nullified the rest of the engagement. Witness dissented from this. Whereupon Mr. Buchanan suggested, further, that if he closed the theatre for one night that would be sufficient. The witness wrote to Mr. Boss the same night and received a letter in reply stating that his wife must have been aware of her condition when she signed the contract. This reflection on his wife annoyed him exceedingly, and he wrote in that spirit to Mrs. Conover and to Mr. Buchanan several letters. He never insulted Miss Jay, but the management had prevented him from entering the theatre.
     Cross-examined.—It was absolutely untrue that he had insulted Miss Jay. He was excluded for a few minutes from the theatre, but afterwards re-admitted. He told his wife not to act unless he was admitted. He was much surprised at being excluded, and asking the reason, he was told Miss Jay had overheard some remarks of his the night before, and had felt much annoyed.
     Mrs. Dacre, re-called, said her child, though born in March, was born prematurely. It was not expected till April.
     This closed the plaintiff’s case.
     Interrogatories were then put in by Mr. Lockwood.
     Mr. KEMP then opened the case for the defendant, and said the secret of the action was jealousy of Miss Jay, entertained by the plaintiff. She, like every woman, and actresses in particular, formed likes and dislikes, and took no trouble to conceal them. As to the slander complained of, that was, he submitted, privileged, and even if it were not, no damage had been sustained by the plaintiff in consequence. If a high salary were paid to the plaintiff, the more rigorously should she perform her duties. Now, the omission of the lines would, it would be found, be a very serious thing, not the mere trifle it was sought to be made out. There was no ill-feeling in the mind of the defendant against the plaintiff, but she had apologized to the plaintiff for the request to take a reduced salary. But she saw the plaintiff was not in a physical state to perform this arduous and onerous part, having to be dragged about the stage. It was childish to speak of her as capable of going through the exertion without grave danger to herself, as was well known to herself and her husband. But the plaintiff had denied it absolutely to Miss Jay. It was asserted that the omission of the lines was deliberate and malicious, and Miss Jay had been undoubtedly subjected to annoyance, Mr. Dacre sneering and turning his back upon her during the performance; and this led to his exclusion till he promised to confine himself to his wife’s room. It was a curious thing that when Miss Jay took the part the piece became a great success, because the actors all worked together con amore.
     After some discussion as to amending the defendant’s case by adding a plea of justification on the ground of intentionally omitting the lines, the Court adjourned at the conclusion of Mr. Kemp’s address.

___

 

The Times (20 January, 1887 - p.4)

(Before MR. JUSTICE GROVE and a Special Jury.)
ROSELLE V. CONOVER.

     Mr. F. Lockwood, Q.C., and Mr. H. Kisch were counsel for the plaintiff; Mr. Kemp, Q.C., Mr. Boxall, and Mr. C. A. Reeve appeared for the defendant.
     The hearing of this case, for wrongful dismissal and slander, brought by Miss Amy Roselle (Mrs. A. Dacre) against her late manageress, was resumed to-day. The court was again inconveniently crowded in every part. The case for the plaintiff having concluded yesterday, today the evidence for the defence was adduced and the defendant,
     Mrs. Conover, examined, said,—I was, unfortunately, lessee of the Olympic Theatre in 1885. When Alone in London was played, Buchanan selected the actors and took an active part, to some extent, in management; but I found the funds and did most of the work. I signed the contract and became responsible for payment of actors and actresses. Miss Jay suggested Miss Roselle to take the leading part in the play; I suggested some inquiries and then made an engagement on the reports on October 10. Nan is a very difficult part to play, requiring great physical exertion. I noticed the embonpoint of her figure, though, being inexperienced in acting, I could not presume to teach the plaintiff to play. I thought she played very nicely. In the garret scene I observed she was too matronly; she was supposed to be carried over the bridge unconscious, but she assisted herself with Mr. Standing, and I thought she seemed tired. Some hostility was exhibited towards me at the theatre, I do not know why. I always try to make people comfortable—too much so, I fear. I used to send the plaintiff refreshments to please her. It is a way I have to the leading actresses. I noticed her figure grew worse as time went on. I suggested further inquiries through Miss Jay. I learnt the fact through Buchanan; it pained me very much. It was ten or 14 days before the dismissal. I asked her to take a reduction at a matinée. I said afterwards I was sorry she had been approached on the subject. I could barely afford her full salary, but she got it. I respected her susceptibilities in every way. Mr. Boss wrote an answer at my dictation, but he tried to improve on it, I am afraid. I wished to terminate her engagement at the six weeks because her condition rendered her incapable of performing that arduous part. I felt I had been duped and made use of as a cat’s-paw or a scapegoat. I would not have engaged her if I had known of her condition. Mr. Dacre, I thought and felt, made all the mischief with Mr. Buchanan. Miss Jay complained of his conduct to me. I felt I was treated like a child, and suggested he should be excluded from the theatre, or, if admitted, confined to his wife’s dressing-room. Miss Jay complained on December 2 that Miss Roselle had left out part of her lines. I directed a letter to be written on December 3. I may have made a statement to Mr. D. Somers, repeating what Miss Jay told me. It was as manageress of the theatre. I may have spoken to Mr. Standing in the passages, where he often was. One never knows whether one has friends or enemies in the theatrical profession. I was in one continual fit of temper all that time, as I had a deal of worry. I may have said what Standing and Mrs. Ephgraves said I said. She said she observed, when dressing, “one of those coming events which cast their shadows before them.” (Laughter.) The first writ against me was for slander.
     Cross-examined.—Mr. Buchanan managed the theatre after January 15, 1886. It was my first and only venture in that line. I had acted en amateur before, and I have played Lady Macbeth, not with Mr. Toole. (Laughter.) Buchanan had a room at the theatre. I was glad of his experience in such matters. I was worried and out of temper. In my warmer moments I may have rapped out things that in my calmer moments I may have disapproved. I may have remonstrated with Mr. Dacre. I found that, taking one consideration with another, a manageress’s life is not a happy one. Before Boss wrote I had contemplated reducing the salaries of the company; the other members had signed for half salaries for matinées. I asked the plaintiff to do so in a very nice way.
     Mr. LOCKWOOD.—I am sure you did. (Laughter.)
     Cross-examination resumed.—Miss Jay got £15 a week, then reduced to £10. I caused inquiries to be made about the plaintiff before the agreement was signed. The business began to drop a fortnight or three weeks after the play began. I suggested stopping the piece. If it pleases you, Buchanan was anxious to go on. I thought it was a very good play. When there is animosity among critics one does not get justice. I persuaded myself, after conversation with Buchanan, to go on till January 15. (Much laughter.)
     Mr. LOCKWOOD.—I dare say money was made in the provinces or in America, or else we should not have the pleasure of seeing you here, Mr. Kemp. (Laughter.)
     Mr. KEMP.—I am afraid it is necessity that brings me here.
     Cross-examination resumed.—I thought I had been imposed on. She (the plaintiff) entered into my service under false pretences to get £30, knowing she was enceinte. I did not say she had cut out part of the play, except repeating what Miss Jay had said to me. I saw no harm in speaking to Mr. Boyne as to the plaintiff’s condition. I may have said to Mr. Boyne, “What a fool you are.”
     To his Lordship.—I certainly know married ladies sometimes have children.
     I thought the plaintiff charming; but she was not charming to me; and kept me at a distance. Her condition was denied at first, and then I thought her state was too delicate a matter for me to mention to her.
     Re-examined.—I suspected this state at rehearsal. If I had known her state I would not have engaged her for this piece. It was very dangerous for a pregnant woman to be dragged about the stage. I am a mother myself and speak from experience.
     Miss Harriett Jay said she was an actress and authoress, principally the latter. She had written eight novels and was part author with Mr. Buchanan of this play. At first she was offered the part of Nan. I suggested Miss Roselle should take it. I had read the play before to Miss Roselle. In consequence of some rumours during the early part of rehearsal, I spoke to Miss Roselle. I asked her if she was enceinte. She said, “No.” I had observed in her mode of acting that she did not show enough energy in her part, which required immense exertion. During the run of the play I acted with her, and I saw her on several occasions so exhausted that I sent her wine. I observed that in the scene across the bridge she walked on tiptoe, and was not carried., Mr. Standing supporting her. At that time she was supposed to be fainting. When I took the part I fell flat on the stage and was carried. I never asked Mr. Standing not to carry me. He did carry me. During the performance of the play I spoke again to Miss Roselle about her state. I do not know the exact date, but I think a fortnight after its production. She admitted it. I remember part of the scene being left out. Up to this time Miss Roselle had never omitted it. She did not behave very well to me. She was very insulting on the stage. In a very sympathetic part she looked at me in a disdainful way, and so unnerved me. She made a most abrupt termination of the scene. The piece omitted was important to the run of the play. There was no appearance of forgetfulness. I think she was angry.
     Have you any doubt about its being intentional? (Objected to.)
     I afterwards made communication about the matter which I believed to be perfectly true. I remember Mr. Dacre being refused admittance. I believe I had told Mrs. Conover Mr. Dacre had been rude to me. He came into the passage near my room and talked in a most insulting way about the management, my brother-in-law and Mrs. Conover. He remained in the passage; as I passed he rose and turned his back on me. I had waited as long as I could, but was bound to go on to the stage. This occurred again. I felt very much insulted and hurt. I told this to Mrs. Conover, and said I would rather go out of the bill than be so insulted. I communicated the facts to Mrs. Conover. I had done nothing to justify this conduct. I was understudy to Miss Roselle. Nothing peculiar took place in rehearsals. The play has been successful in the provinces, and was so in America at the same time. I played Nan in the provinces. I never said to Mr. Standing, “Do not carry me as you do Miss Roselle; drag me.” On one occasion Mr. Standing spoke to Mr. Buchanan about pressing the plaintiff to go on—”She will faint, but she will be all right at night.”
     Cross-examined.—This was at the last rehearsal, I believe. I continued to play with Mr. Standing till January 15. I know nothing of him beyond playing with him. The bridge is narrow; no bed or protection if we fell. During the greater portion of the time it is not a fact that I played the part there as plaintiff had done. I altered the business in this incident. Generally, I played my part as I had conceived it. I think I directed the business at rehearsals, as I was the authoress. I never kissed Miss Roselle’s hand at the end of the scene; it is in the middle of it. This (produced) is not the prompt copy. I did not say “Good-bye” and kiss the hand at the end of the scene; it had been done, and with much more effect, in the middle. The inquiry as to Miss Roselle’s condition was at rehearsal. She complained of neuralgia. I asked, “Is there any special reason for neuralgia?” She said, “I do not know what you mean.” I said married ladies usually have children. Miss Roselle said she was not enceinte. Mr. Dacre before that night always raised his hat, but this night he did not. I think it was November 23.
     Re-examined.—What day of the week was this incident?
—Monday, I believe. I did know of a letter dated Sunday, and of this letter to Buchanan having been written.
     Mr. R. Buchanan, the author, examined, said he attended often at the Olympic, and had superintended Alone in London both in London and America. There was a natural reluctance, he said, in a leading lady of Miss Roselle’s eminence to go through tiring business at a rehearsal. Mr. Standing said, “Don’t press her to go on, or she’ll faint;” that was when she had to be carried over the bridge. She was not carried at night, as I thought she would be. She assisted him with her feet, though his arm was round her. She was supposed to be in a dead swoon, and could hardly walk, I should say. That continued till she left. I knew her condition soon after the production—a week or so, I think. There is some shadow of truth in what Mr. Dacre said. I said if the defendant was a dishonourable woman, which I knew she was not, she might break Miss Roselle’s engagement. I did not threaten to do it, as I knew I hadn’t the power. I don’t think I had a lawyer’s opinion on it; it was not necessary then. She performed all the scenes admirably where no physical exertion was required.
     Cross-examined by Mr. LOCKWOOD, witness described the bridge scene in the play. “Nan” ought to be dragged there; it was absolutely necessary for the part. But the actors might assist each other. I remonstrated with the plaintiff and Mr. Standing about this from the beginning of the piece. Mr. Standing did not tell the truth—I say so emphatically—as to the way Miss Jay was conveyed across the bridge. The defendant found all the money up to January 15. She sometimes seemed in a financial difficulty. It is possible she may have wished the piece should stop. I did not suggest the reduction of the salaries. I was surprised when I heard it. I knew the plaintiff refused to play at a reduction. I told the defendant what Mr. Dacre had said to me as to his wife’s condition. Managers sometimes close the house for the night; if this is done as a trick to elude a contract that would be dishonourable. For instance, if an actor or actress was ruining a piece it might be done legitimately. I sent a letter to the Era; it was published unaltered as far as I know.
     Re-examined by Mr. KEMP.—An action for slander has been brought against me for a similar cause as this.
     Mr. Griffith, a solicitor, called, said he was a friend of the defendant and Mr. Buchanan, and had free access to the Olympic. On December 2 he noticed from the front stalls in the Thames Ditton scene the plaintiff left abruptly, and Miss Jay stayed on the stage in a bewildered way, and part of the dialogue was left out. I went behind the scenes and spoke to Miss Jay and the defendant. I heard the directions given as to the bridge scene. You could see the action of Miss Roselle’s feet up the steps then. She also moderated her screams; she had to scream for three minutes. (Laughter.)
     Cross-examined by Mr. LOCKWOOD.—I was not a solicitor then. I attended as an amateur at the rehearsals and noticed her feet business at one of them. Again it was apparent at performances. I went round at once after the scene. Practically, then, you were the first person that found this out?—For once your acumen has misled you, Sir. Miss Jay had found it out. You are not a Hamlet yourself?—No. I have once acted in amateur theatricals.
     Mr. LOCKWOOD.—I thought you might be a tragedian. You noticed her screams grew fainter. Are you a judge of screams?—Well, they were not so rich or long; they were jerky. (Much laughter.)
     Mr. LOCKWOOD.—I don’t know if my friend would like you to give us a specimen.
     Mr. KEMP.—Oh, no, thank you.
     Mrs. Frank Sutherland saw the play Alone in London and plaintiff as “Nan.” Each time after the first, when she played very well, she grew weaker and weaker. I spoke to my husband, who is a manager and greatly interested in theatrical matters. She observed this to the defendant. Miss Roselle was very laboured in the garret scene, and Miss Jay played it differently. Miss Roselle was dragged, not carried. Miss Jay fainted and was carried.
     Cross-examined.—This matter was discussed with the defendant.
     Mr. LOCKWOOD.—Supposing you and I were playing the bridge scene together,  might not I drag you across? (Great laughter.)—No, it would not be correct.
     Mr. JUSTICE GROVE.—That would probably bring down the house.
     Mr. LOCKWOOD.—No, my Lord, it would be much more likely to bring down the bridge.
     Mr. Arthur Hyder, the prompter at the Olympic, said the husband was supposed to carry “Nan” up the stairs. The plaintiff fell into Mr. Standing’s arms, not on the stage and then they went up the steps together, Miss Roselle helping herself. She went across the bridge on the tips of her toes. On December 2 I was there and remember the omission; the plaintiff left half a page unsaid and left abruptly. Miss Jay seemed amazed and did not know what to do, but she walked off. The “Good-bye” scene was omitted. The plaintiff was “letter perfect” all through her part.
     This closed the case for the defence, and
     Mr. KEMP addressed the jury. He stated reasons of action and he read the slanders. Now, the sting was in the word “purposely.” He contended the defendant, Mrs. Conover, had no malice in saying what she did. Such conversation was natural in a theatre, and such things should not be brought into Court. The salary of the plaintiff was very large and the defendant had a right to ask the plaintiff to render her every assistance and to expect that plaintiff should be fit to act her part. But instead the plaintiff had denied her condition, though as the wife of a medical man she must have known it at the time. The defendant had thus a grievance, but she did not make the most of it for her own sake, it is true, yet also for the sake of others. The plaintiff sneered at her as an interloper and not a regular member of the profession. She was only doing what she ought to have done. Then there was that letter of Mr. Dacre. Next the insult to Miss Jay, which caused her to say that she would rather have her name left out of the bill than stand this. So the plaintiff and her husband determined to leave and to leave all these unpleasantnesses, and as a final shot plaintiff purposely omitted the piece which gave Miss Jay a chance of applause. Evidence had been called as to what occurred. The witnesses said they had not noticed anything, which may well be, for some people could not attend to a play but preferred to talk. He asked the jury to exercise their common sense and say the plaintiff was not in a fit state to act and she knew it—that she was performing the part as she ought not to have done.
     Mr. LOCKWOOD then replied on the whole case, saying he was amazed at an amendment being asked for at the 11th hour and a plea of justification requested to be added. If the jury thought the plaintiff capable of deliberately cutting out a portion of her part she was unfit to enter a decent theatre, or act there in a foremost position. This, then, as charged, was very gross professional misconduct; if convicted of it the plaintiff would suffer a grievous injury in her reputation which she had so dearly built up by long, hard, and successful labour. As to there being any professional jealousy between the plaintiff and the defendant, it was absurd. They were not rivals; not in the same way of business at all. And being a manageress with money, the defendant would be welcomed instead of given the cold shoulder. The more of such managers the better. (During some observations of the learned counsel the defendant made some angry interruptions, and Mr. Lockwood said “Ah! that temper! I am glad I am not under that management, gentlemen,” and the defendant abruptly left the Court in a semi-dramatic manner.) Mr. Lockwood continued, saying that though he did not mean to say anything offensive or give any pain, and the cue was not properly given, he hoped the jury agreed with him in thinking the defendant was right in accepting the suit. Now, all the actors, as the defendant admitted, of position, reputation and veracity, spoke to the high class of the plaintiff’s performance from first to last. If the defendant noticed the plaintiff’s condition, why should she spread it about to all the men in the company? She was entitled to such temperate damages for slander and wrongful dismissal as the jury thought right under all the circumstances of the case, taking into consideration her future professional position.
     MR. JUSTICE GROVE then summed up, discussing first the question of the liability of the defendant, and two questions arose here, entirely different causes of action, that is, slander and wrongful dismissal. Now, the former was not so serious a matter as a written libel. Was the contract broken by the defendant on reasonable and proper grounds? The imputation was of deliberately cutting out a part of the play with a view to insult Miss Jay, and they would look at the circumstances of the case. But the words seemed to have been uttered by a manageress in a pet or temper to persons at the theatre, and there seemed no deliberate publication—rather a gossiping statement made to people who, he presumed, discussed each other’s concerns pretty freely. Some allowance must be made, for society could hardly go on if people were to keep such a watch over the door of their mouths. Take for instance, matters discussed at clubs, dinner tables, and private meetings. And this went very much to damages, and the defendant was very candid as to that. He could not see any privilege in the case, as there was no question of fitness or unfitness discussed as in the character of a servant. What damage had she sustained in her reputation by the slander? There was no evidence of any special damage sustained here, though she should be entitled to something on the slander. The more serious matter was—was the plaintiff incapacitated by her bodily condition from efficiently performing her part? Did she know of her being in the family way when she took the engagement. The omission of the lines was not pleaded as a good ground for dismissal. A high degree of sensitiveness seemed to have been developed among the “happy family” of actors and actresses, as if a woman giving birth to a child was a shocking thing, not to be mentioned among decent people. The bare mention of the fact produced an indignant letter from the husband speaking of it as “grossly coarse and indelicate.” Why he did not quite see. This hyper-refinement and over-delicacy sometimes defeated their own object. Was the agreement wrongly broken by the defendant? If so, the plaintiff was entitled to the £180 for the six weeks’ work and two matinées besides. But if her bodily condition was such as to prevent her properly doing her duty, then they would omit some portion of that in estimating the damages. It appeared as if the omission in the part was of some importance; but the question was—was it made maliciously, on purpose to injure the piece and insult Miss Jay? His Lordship then carefully reviewed the evidence and concluded.—What damages do you think she is entitled to in regard to injury to her reputation? Next, what damages directly following from the breach of contract, supposing that was not justified by the plaintiff’s bodily condition, which prevented her from efficiently carrying out her part?
     The jury retired at 4.30 p.m., and, after an absence of half an hour returned into court.
     In answer to the officer—his Lordship having left—they found that the slander was uttered, but that it did not injure the plaintiff. As to the wrongful dismissal, they found a verdict for the plaintiff for the full amount claimed—£190.

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The Daily News (20 January, 1887)

THE THEATRICAL SLANDER CASE.
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     The hearing of the case of “Roselle v. Conover” was continued yesterday before Mr. Justice Grove and a special  jury. It was an action brought by Miss Amy Roselle, the actress, against Mrs. Conover, of the Olympic Theatre, to recover damages for wrongful dismissal from her engagement at that theatre, and also for slander.
     Mr. Lockwood, Q.C., and Mr. H. Kisch were for the plaintiff; and Mr. Kemp, Q.C., Mr. Boxall, and Mr. C. A. Reeve for the defendant.
     Mrs. Anna Conover, the defendant, was called, and said that in 1885 she was unfortunately lessee and manageress of the Olympic Theatre. She had played there “Alone in London,” and Mr. Buchanan selected the actors and actresses, whilst witness found the funds and did a lot of the work. She became personally responsible for the payment of the performers. Miss Jay suggested that Miss Roselle should perform the principal part. She suggested that Miss Jay should make an inquiry, and, in consequence of her report of that result, the engagement was entered into, and the contract was signed on October 10. The part of Annie Meadows, or Nan, was a very difficult part, and required a great deal of physical exertion to play it properly. She thought Miss Roselle played the part very well, but she noticed her figure. She, however, was too matronly for the part. She had to be carried over a bridge whilst she was unconscious. She played the scene as if not unconscious. She assisted herself, to the help of Mr. Standing. She could not say if she appeared fatigued, but it was a part that would make anyone tired. She liked her very much indeed, and tried to make her comfortable, though she appeared somewhat high. She tried to make everybody comfortable at her theatre—she was afraid too much so. (Laughter.) About the middle of November she noticed her figure, and how she played her part, and she suggested that Miss Jay should make further enquiry. She, however, learnt the plaintiff’s condition from Mr. Buchanan, and was rather pained that it had not been communicated to witness. This was about ten days before the dismissal. She said to her business manager that she was making little money, and the actors ought to take half salary. This was said about a matinée. Miss Roselle was spoken to, and refused. Witness met her in a passage, and said she was sorry she had been spoken to. She got her full salary. Witness respected the plaintiff’s susceptibilities in every way, and she did not think that Miss Roselle herself had anything to do with this matter. Witness dictated a letter to her business manager on Oct. 21, and she was afraid that he tried to improve upon it instead of sending just what she dictated. Mr. Dacre answered that letter. After what took place on Nov. 24 she was desirous of putting an end to the engagement at the end of the six weeks, because she found that Miss Roselle was unfit to play the part in her then condition. That was the only reason. She felt that she had been duped and made use of; a catspaw or a scapegoat. (Laughter.) Miss Jay made a complaint as to Mr. Dacre, and afterwards witness requested, with Mr. Buchanan, that he should not be admitted to the theatre, because his manner to witness was rude. He was afterwards admitted, but only to his wife’s dressing-room. Miss Jay, on the 2nd December, complained that the plaintiff had left out a part of a scene. Miss Jay said—
     Mr. Lockwood objected that this was not evidence.
     Witness—My dear sir, you must allow me. I am “Alone in London,” and a foreigner. (Laughter.) It is necessary for my own protection, for I am accused of slander, when I have not uttered slander.
     Mr. Lockwood—Excuse me, Madame, I am not under your management yet. (Laughter.)
     Mr. Kemp—What a pity you are not! (Renewed laughter.)
     The witness, in continuation, spoke to some conversations which she was said to have had, and which she did not well remember, but, in substance, she denied having uttered any slander. She added that in the theatrical profession one never knew who were friends or enemies. (Laughter.) She could not remember the words she spoke to Mr. Standing, and she might have used the words he spoke yesterday. She was in one continual temper, because she had a great deal of worry. (Laughter.) Witness was on the 4th December served with a writ for slander, and then there was no claim for a breach of contract.
     Cross-examined: She had never managed a theatre before she took the Olympic, nor since; she had no desire. She had not acted before then, but she had played since. She had played Lady Macbeth.
     Not with Mr. Toole?—No. (Loud laughter.) She had said that she was in a continual temper at the Olympic, and no doubt she said things which in her calmer moments she would not have thought of.
     Witness said she considered that the plaintiff had entered into her service under false pretences, knowing all the time that she was enceinte. She did not volunteer any statement about the plaintiff. She spoke to Mr. Standing, who was a married man, and played with the plaintiff every night. She said to him “Do you not think she is going to have a baby?”—(a laugh)—and he said that he did not know.
     And did you say “What a fool you must be”? (Laughter.)—I may have done so. (Renewed laughter.) She also asked the question of married ladies as well.
     Mr. Justice Grove—You know, I suppose, that married women do sometimes have children.
     Witness—Oh, certainly. I know from experience. (Laughter.)
     Mr. Lockwood—Why did you not go to Miss Roselle?—Why did she not speak to me? I treated her with the greatest courtesy, but she kept me at a distance, and treated me as a child. She treated me simply as a bank to draw her money from. (Laughter.)
     Miss Harriet Jay said that she was an actress and an authoress also—principally an authoress. She had written besides this play about eight novels. When the piece was to be brought out witness was offered the part of Nan, but she herself suggested that Miss Roselle should play the part. Soon after she came witness asked her if she was enceinte, and she said “No.” Witness said this because she did not show enough exertion in the part. She appeared so exhausted on several occasions that witness sent her some wine. Witness remembered part of the scene being left out. Miss Roselle never before omitted it. She did not behave very well to witness. She was very insulting to her on the stage. Their parts were very sympathetic, and the coldness of the plaintiff’s demeanour, and her looking at witness so disdainfully, utterly unnerved her, and prevented her from acting properly. In the particular scene that was in question she behaved most abruptly; and the part which she omitted was most important. There was no appearance of forgetfulness. Witness thought that she was angry.
     Have you any doubt that she left it out purposely?
     Mr. Lockwood objected to the question, as asking really what the jury had to decide, and it was not put.
     Witness: She afterwards made a communication to Mrs. Conover, and told her what she believed to be perfectly true—Mr. Dacre behaved rudely to her.
     Mr. Robert Buchanan, the next witness, said that he was the author of many works, besides plays, and he was joint author with Miss Jay of the particular piece now in question. He took part in the bringing out of the play, and also in its management, both in America and at the Olympic. He did not notice the exhibition of any fatigue on the plaintiff’s part at rehearsals. There would be naturally a reluctance to go through the laborious parts at rehearsals in the case of a lady of her position on the stage. He, however, wished her to be carried over the bridge, but he was asked by Mr. Standing not to insist upon it, as if this was done she would faint away. Witness had expected that she would be carried at night, but she was not carried. She did the best she could to assist Mr. Standing with her feet. She assisted herself up the stairs and over the bridge.
     She was supposed to be insensible? She was supposed to be in a dead swoon, and he did not think that a person who was in a dead swoon would walk to the place of her own execution. (Loud laughter.) This sort of thing continued throughout the whole of her performance. He could not give the precise date when he became aware of the cause of this, but it was within a week, he thought, of the production of the piece. He saw Mr. Dacre. He came to witness’s room at the theatre, after the proposal to reduce his wife’s salary had been made by Mrs. Conover. There was a little shadow of truth, a little verbal truth, in the conversation spoken to as having taken place with him. He said that Mrs. Conover could readily break the engagement, and then he instanced what had sometimes been done. He said what she could do if she were dishonourable, which he knew her not to be. He never in any way suggested that she should so act. The witness added that another action had been brought against him for the same slander.
     Mr. Munsell Griffiths, a solicitor, who had been present at rehearsals and performances of the piece, said that, among others, he witnessed the performance on the 2nd of December, and she was not carried over the bridge. Further, when she was supposed to be tied to the stake she did not scream so long or so loud as she should have done. (Laughter.)
     Mr. Lockwood—You noticed that her screams had got fainter. Are you a judge of screams? (Laughter.)
     Witness—I can assure you that, after having seen some twenty performances, I was a very good judge. (Much laughter.)
     His lordship summed up, and the jury retired to consider their verdict.
     In half-an-hour they returned, and said that they found that the slander was uttered, but that it did not injure the plaintiff; and, as to the wrongful dismissal, they gave a verdict for the plaintiff for 190l.

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Reynolds’s Newspaper (23 January, 1887)

A THEATRICAL CASE.

     In the Queen’s Bench Division the case of Roselle v. Conover was heard.
     The plaintiff, Mrs. Dace, better known as Miss Amy Roselle, was an actress, and the defendant was Mrs. Conover, of the Olympic Theatre. The action was brought to recover damages for slander of the plaintiff in her professional character, and also for wrongful dismissal. The defendant to this pleaded privilege, and also exoneration and discharge from the contract.
     Mr. Lockwood, Q.C., and Mr. H. Kisch were for the plaintiff; and Mr. Kemp, Q.C., and Mr. Boxall for the defendant.
     Mr. Lockwood, in opening the case, said that the plaintiff had married Mr. Arthur Dacre, and in October, 1885, she was staying with her husband in the Isle of Wight. At that time Mr. Buchanan, in conjunction with his sister-in-law, Miss Jay, had written “Alone in London,” and this play was to be produced at the Olympic. Under these circumstances Miss Amy Roselle was communicated with with the view of her taking the leading part of Nan, and there was an agreement entered into on the 10th of October, 1885, between the plaintiff and Mrs. Conover. By this agreement Mrs. Conover engaged the professional services of Miss Amy Roselle to play at any theatre in London for the run of “Alone in London” commencing on the 24th of October, six weeks’ run guaranteed. She was to play the leading rôle, and she was to have £30 a-week. It happened that the commencement of the performance was postponed from the 24th of October till the 2nd of November, and the plaintiff accepted half-salary in reference to that time. Miss Jay took the part of a London street boy, which was not the leading rôle. The play fell flat, and about the middle of November there was a morning performance, for which Miss Amy Roselle was entitled to payment in full. She was, however, asked by Mr. Boss, the acting manager, to accept half-salary in respect of it. Mr. Dacre objected to this, but it was said that the management were losing something like £200 a-week. A letter was soon afterwards written by Mr. Dacre to Mr. Boss in reference to the condition of the plaintiff, though her child was not born until March following; but the management seemed to have fastened upon this. The plaintiff was asked to take less than her full salary, and upon this a correspondence ensued. She continued to play till December 2, and upon that occasion the plaintiff by some mistake, unfortunately, went off the stage at the first cue—the kissing of a hand by another player—instead of the second kissing of the hand. The consequence of this was that Miss Jay was left upon the stage without the opportunity of expressing her moral sentiments. (Laughter.) On December 3 Mr. Martin, the defendant’s solicitor, wrote to the plaintiff:—“In consequence of your conduct last night, when I understand you purposely cut off part of an act, and thereby seriously interfered with the proper performance of the play, I am instructed by Mrs. Conover and Mr. Buchanan to enclose you bank-note for £30, in full discharge of your salary to the 4th inst., the date on which your engagement expires.” Statements of this kind were repeated about the theatre, and this was the slander complained of.
     Mr. Justice Grove feared that the jury did not understand what was meant by the word “cue.” (Laughter.)
     Mr. Lockwood: If they did not they ought to do—(laughter)—and he understood them that they did know. He did not know whether his lordship was equally familiar with it. (A laugh.)
     Mr. Justice Grove: Yes, but he did not become acquainted with it until he was in somewhat advanced life, and he thought that perhaps the jury were equally ignorant.
     Mr. Lockwood: If your lordship should tell me to leave the court, my cue would be “court.” (Loud laughter.) He trusted that it would be long before his lordship would say that, however.
     Miss Amy Roselle then gave evidence to the effect that there was never any complaint as to her playing in “Alone in London.” The defendant said that she did not know what the piece would be worth without her acting. She added that they were losing £200 a week, and that she was losing so much that her trustees would not allow her to continue much longer. The witness added that her condition at the time in no way interfered with her performance. On the night of the mistake Miss Jay was playing Chickweed. Her part was to kiss witness’s hand. She then had to go to the gate, and then ought to have stopped and said, “Oh, you will come again promptly!” Instead of stopping she mistook the first good-bye, and went straight off the stage. Her omission did not in the slightest interfere with the action of the piece. Such a thing frequently happened, and no complaint was made to her upon that occasion. The performance continued under Mrs. Conover’s management until the 15th January, 1886. What witness claimed was for six weeks’ salary, £180. There were also three matinées, which were £5 each. She had been paid for one, but she claimed for two, that was £10, making together £190, as special damage. During all the time that she played she satisfactorily performed her part, and she did not suffer from fatigue or any other ailment. Her son was born on the 26th March, 1886. No announcement was made in public as to her sudden dismissal. It came to her knowledge that Miss Jay was to take her part in the provinces.
     Miss Roselle, the plaintiff, on Tuesday again went into the witness-box, and was cross-examined by Mr. Kemp. She said that before she undertook the part in the play it was read over to her by Miss Jay, and she knew the character of the part that she had to perform. The piece was the story of a brutal husband ill-treating his wife, and in one scene he attempted to murder her. She was not aware that Mrs. Conover wished Miss Jay to perform her part. A moderate deal of physical exertion was required in her part.
     You had to fall down, and then to be carried over a bridge to be murdered?—No; not to fall down, but into Mr. Standing’s arms, and he had to lead me off.
     Did you, instead of that, trip off the stage, or walk off?—No. Before she commenced Miss Jay did not tell her that she could not perform a part which required so much physical exertion in consequence of her state of health. Her child was born on the 26th of March, and she had engaged herself for the run of the piece. She had not formed any intention when she should cease playing. She did not at the rehearsal faint away in consequence of the physical exertion required. Her husband did not suggest that another lady should be engaged to play her part. She did not complain of or sneer at Miss Jay, and she had no knowledge that the lady complained of insulting language from witness’s husband. Her husband required to be in the theatre whilst she was playing, but she did not remember whether he forbade her to play unless he was there. She did not threaten to wreck the “Sluice act.” She said it was part of the arrangement that her husband should be admitted, and unless he was admitted she should refuse to play. He was admitted, but she did not know that it was upon the condition that he should keep to her dressing-room. She did not know why her husband was not admitted. She did not inquire; she was not on speaking terms with Mrs. Conover. She had caused a very unpleasant letter to be written. That was on the 21st of November, and a few nights after witness refused to act unless her husband was admitted. It was a rude letter; it said that she was not doing justice to the part. The expression was that she had jeopardised the success of the piece. That she thought extremely rude, when she was doing her duty properly. She was properly doing her work at the time. Her husband wrote to the management of the theatre. He referred to the gross, coarse, and indelicate letter which had been written about witness, and to the manager being “contemptible enough.” She did not consider that “rude” under the circumstances. Mr. Buchanan asked her husband if she would go on acting after the six weeks at a smaller salary, and Mr. Dacre called upon Mr. Buchanan and said that so far as he was concerned he should not insist upon carrying on her engagement after the six weeks, but would accept a fortnight’s notice. Her husband said, “But how will you do with the other actors?” and Mr. Buchanan said, “I can break the engagement in many ways. I could shut up the theatre for a night, the theatre could be transferred to me, and they could play ‘Anatomy.’” This was what was meant by want of principle.
     Re-examined: Was there any justification for saying that you prematurely left the stage on purpose?—Certainly not.
     Mr. Herbert Standing said that he had been for many years in the dramatic profession, and he played in “Alone in London” at the Olympic. He played the villain of the piece. (A laugh.)
     And my friend has suggested that you were satisfactorily disposed of?—I was disposed of in the end of the piece; I was killed. (Laughter.) He was on the stage mostly when the plaintiff was there in the part of Nan nearly the whole time. He persecuted Miss Roselle for nearly the whole of the play. He noticed no omission on her part on the evening in question. He asked Mrs. Conover the reason of the omission when the plaintiff left.
     What did she say?—Am I to use the exact words?
     I must leave that to you—I must put the question in that way.—Mrs. Conover said, “This is a pretty fine d——   thing.” (Loud laughter.) He said, “What fine thing?” and she replied, “Why, Miss Roselle walked off the stage last night with the intention of deliberately insulting Miss Jay, and to spoil the piece, and to shut up my theatre.” She said that the plaintiff had deliberately cut our part of the scene. In witness’s opinion the omission of a few words would not impair the action of the piece or the success of that particular scene. Such an omission was a thing that frequently happened.
     Cross-examined: He did not carry Miss Roselle off the stage; he dragged her, and she assisted him with her feet.
     Why did you not carry her? She is a little, light thing—(loud laughter)—and you are a fine, strong man.—Thank you. (Laughter.) It was a dangerous scene; they had to go over a bridge, and if they had fallen they would have been very seriously injured. Plaintiff realized it, and he did so too. He carried Miss Jay one night, and she was so nervous that she begged him not to do it again, and he was very glad not to do it. (Laughter.) She was not a light, little thing; she was a fine woman. (Laughter.) She did not wobble with her toes to assist him.
     Mr. Dalton Towers said he was stage manager to Mrs. Conover, and he took part in “Alone in London.” He played the part of Charles Johnson. The plaintiff’s representation of her part was simply perfect. There was not the slightest indication of weakness or ill-health in the plaintiff down to the 2nd of December. Mrs. Conover said that on a previous evening Miss Roselle had purposely cut out part of a scene.
     Mr. Leonard Boyne said that he had had considerable experience as an actor, and he was now playing the leading part in Mr. Buchanan’s play of “Sophia” at the Vaudeville. He at the Olympic played the part of John Biddlecomb in “Alone in London.” He agreed that the plaintiff’s performance of her part was simply “perfect.” It was an artistic performance. He noticed no failing in connection with the part she played, nor any imperfection.
     Mr. Kemp, in the course of some discussion, said that he should contend that the plaintiff had purposely omitted part of her scene to annoy Miss Jay.
     Mr. Percy Bell said that he took the part of Jenkinson in “Alone in London,” and he was upon the stage at the time that the omission in question occurred. He noticed no omission, and there was no confusion upon the stage, nor was the scene spoiled.
     Cross-examined: He did not think that he had said that at the time he was reading a newspaper, and did not notice what took place. His business was to hide behind a newspaper, and listen to what the two other characters were saying.
     Mr. John Tresahar took the part of Spriggins in “Alone in London.” He gave similar evidence as to the omission, as to there being no confusion upon the stage, and nothing particularly noticeable. As to the plaintiff’s acting, he thought that that was as good upon the last night as upon the first, and that was as good as it could be.
     Mr. Alfred Burnham said that he was an acting manager at the Olympic. He heard of an arrangement that Miss Jay should take the plaintiff’s part. It was said that Miss Roselle had purposely insulted Miss Jay. The performance of the plaintiff was excellent.
     Mrs. Patty Ephgraves, a dresser at the Olympic Theatre, saw the performance on the 2nd December, and noticed nothing exceptional. She saw no confusion upon the stage, no insult, and no interference with the performance.
     Mr. James Mortimer, a dramatic author and formerly editor of the Figaro, said that on November 23, 1885, he was “in front” of the theatre, and saw the performance. He thought the plaintiff’s performance admirable in every respect. He also went behind. He noticed nothing in Miss Roselle showing fatigue or anything of that sort. Mrs. Conover said Miss Roselle was not very well, and he mentioned the matter to Miss Roselle, who said she was in no way ill. He had gone behind the scenes to congratulate her upon her performance.
     Miss Annie Rose said she was an actress, and she saw a performance at the Olympic. On the 25th November she believed it was. She was married, and her real name was Mrs. Horace Neville. She certainly saw nothing in the condition or acting of the plaintiff that would tend to prejudice the performance. It was simply excellent, in her opinion.
     Mr. John Lawrence Toole said he was an actor and the manager of a theatre in London.
     You have some experience of theatrical matters and of the management of theatres?—I think so. (Laughter.)
     It does sometimes happen that there occurs the leaving out of lines by an actor?—Occasionally.
     It has happened to yourself occasionally?—Yes.
     To leave out some lines and introduce others? (Laughter.)—Yes.
     It happens in playing long parts, like Hamlet or Macbeth?—Yes.
     Mr. Kemp: Mr. Toole’s favourite characters? (Laughter.)
     Mr. Toole: Not yet. (Loud laughter.)
     Mr. Lockwood: Look at the extract from this play. The stage practice is kissing of the hand of a lady?—
“Two or three kisses of the hand;” yes, I notice it.
     It was said, “There are people coming. Good-bye; kissing her hand.”
     Looking at that piece of the dialogue, do you think it improbable that an actress might mistake to utter some of the words?—Yes; they were very similar.
     It is suggested that Miss Roselle purposely left out these lines. What effect would that, in your opinion, have upon her professional position?
     Mr. Justice Grove: That is asking a matter which the jury have to decide.
     After discussion the question was rejected.
     Cross-examined: I took the liberty of suggesting some time ago that your best jokes were always your own.—Not always; that depends upon the play.
     Are you an author as well as a player?—No, sir; I have never acknowledged that position.
     You might be, like the author of “Waverley,” reserving yourself for a future occasion?—Very likely—(laughter)—yes.
     Mr. Arthur Dacre, the plaintiff’s husband, who said in the course of his evidence that he was a medical man, spoke to an interview that he had with Mr. Buchanan on that occasion. Mr. Buchanan said that all parties had agreed to take less salaries, and unless the plaintiff consented to do so the theatre would have to be closed. Witness said his wife would not take less salary, and witness mentioned at the same time that she was enceinte. He also said that her time was so little advanced that she could go on playing for months. Before this not a single word had been said as to his wife’s incapacity for playing her part. Witness repeated that she was able to play for months, but rather than have such a matter talked about his wife would resign at a fortnight after the six weeks. Witness said that they had a guaranteed time that included the rest of the performance. Then Mr. Buchanan talked about the state of the plaintiff’s health. The witness positively denied that he had ever insulted Miss Jay in any way. He always took off his hat when he passed.
     Mr. Edward Ledger, the proprietor and editor of the Era newspaper, was called to speak to the receipt by him of a notice as to the resting of Miss Roselle; but Mr. Kemp admitted that the notice had been sent.
     This concluded the case for the plaintiff.
     Mr. Kemp then addressed the jury in opening the case for the defendant, and the further hearing was adjourned.
     Mrs. Ann Conover, the defendant, was called, on Wednesday, and said that in 1885 she was unfortunately lessee and manageress of the Olympic Theatre. She had played there “Alone in London,” and Mr. Buchanan selected the actors and actresses, whilst witness found the funds and did a lot of the work. She became personally responsible for the payment of the performers. Miss Jay suggested that Miss Roselle should perform the principal part. I suggested that Miss Jay should make an inquiry, and, in consequence of her report of that result, the engagement was entered into, and the contract was signed on Oct. 10. The part of Annie Meadows, or Nan, was a very difficult part, and required a great deal of physical exertion to play it properly. She thought Miss Roselle played the part very well, but she noticed her figure. She, however, was too matronly for the part. She had to be carried over a bridge whilst she was unconscious. She played the scene as if not unconscious. She assisted herself, to the help of Mr. Standing. She could not say if she appeared fatigued, but it was a part that would make anyone tired. She liked her very much indeed, and tried to make her comfortable; though she appeared somewhat high. She tried to make everybody comfortable at her theatre; she was afraid too much so. (Laughter.) About the middle of November she noticed her figure, and how she played her part, and she suggested that Miss Jay should make further inquiry. She, however, learnt the plaintiff’s condition from Mr. Buchanan, and was rather pained that it had not been communicated to witness. This was about ten days before the dismissal. She said to her business manager that she was making little money, and the actors ought to take half salary. This was said about a matinée. Miss Roselle was spoken to, and refused. Witness met her in a passage, and said she was sorry she had been spoken to. She got her full salary. Witness respected the plaintiff’s susceptibilities in every way, and she did not think that Miss Roselle herself had anything to do with this matter. Witness dictated a letter to her business manager on the 21st October, and she was afraid that he tried to improve upon it instead of sending just what she dictated. Mr. Dacre answered that letter. After what took place on the 24th November she was desirous of putting an end to the engagement at the end of the six weeks, because she found that Miss Roselle was unfit to play the part in her then condition. That was the only reason. She felt that she had been duped and made use of; a catspaw or a scapegoat. (Laughter.) Miss Jay made a complaint as to Mr. Dacre, and witness afterwards requested, with Mr. Buchanan, that he should not be admitted to the theatre, because his manner to witness was rude. He was afterwards admitted, but only to his wife’s dressing-room. Miss Jay, on the 2nd December, complained that the plaintiff had left out a part of a scene. Miss Jay said—
     Mr. Lockwood objected that this was not evidence.
     Witness: My dear sir, you must allow me. I am “Alone in London,” and a foreigner. (Laughter.) It is necessary for my own protection, for I am accused of slander, when I have not uttered slander.
     Mr. Lockwood: Excuse me, madam, I am not under your management yet. (Laughter.)
     Mr. Kemp: What a pity you are not! (Renewed laughter.)
     The witness, in continuation, spoke to some conversation which she was said to have had, and which she did not well remember, but, in substance, she denied having uttered any slander. She added that in the theatrical profession one never knew who were friends or enemies. (Laughter.) She could not remember the words she spoke to Mr. Standing, and she might have used the words he spoke yesterday. She was in one continual temper, because she had a great deal of worry. (Laughter.) Witness was on the 4th December served with a writ for slander, and then there was no claim for a breach of contract.
     Cross-examined: She had never managed a theatre before she took the Olympic, nor since; she had no desire. She had not acted before then, but she had played since. She had played Lady Macbeth.
     Not with Mr. Toole?—No. (Loud laughter.) She had said that she was in a continual temper at the Olympic, and no doubt she said things which in her calmer moments she would not have thought of.
     Witness said she considered that the plaintiff had entered into her service under false pretences, knowing all the time that she was enceinte. She did not volunteer any statement about the plaintiff. She spoke to Mr. Standing, who was a married man, and played with the plaintiff every night. She said to him, “Do you not think she is going to have a baby?”—(a laugh)—and he said that he did not know.
     And did you say, “What a fool you must be?” (Laughter.)—I may have done so. (Renewed laughter.) She also asked the question of married ladies as well.
     Mr. Justice Grove: You know, I suppose, that married women do sometimes have children?—Witness: Oh, certainly. I know from experience. (Laughter.)
     Mr. Lockwood: Why did you not go to Miss Roselle?—Why did she not speak to me? I treated her with the greatest courtesy, but she kept me at a distance, and treated me as a child. She treated me simply as a bank to draw her money from. (Laughter.)
     Miss Harriet Jay said that she was an actress and an authoress also—principally an authoress. She had written besides this play about eight novels. When the piece was to be brought out witness was offered the part of Nan, but she herself suggested that Miss Roselle should play the part. Soon after she came witness asked her if she was enceinte, and she said “No.” Witness said this because she did not show enough exertion in the part. She appeared so exhausted on several occasions that witness sent her some wine. Witness remembered part of the scene being left out. Miss Roselle never before omitted it. She did not behave very well to witness. She was very insulting to her on the stage. Their parts were very sympathetic, and the coldness of the plaintiff’s demeanour, and her looking at witness so disdainfully, utterly unnerved her, and prevented her from acting properly. In the particular scene that was in question she behaved most abruptly; and the part which she omitted was most important. There was no appearance of forgetfulness. Witness thought that she was angry.
     Have you any doubt that she left it out purposely?
     Mr. Lockwood objected to the question, as asking really what the jury had to decide, and it was not put.
     Witness: She afterwards made a communication to Mrs. Conover, and told her what she believed to be perfectly true—Mr. Dacre behaved rudely to her.
     Mr. Robert Buchanan, the next witness, said that he was the author of many works, besides plays, and he was joint author with Miss Jay of the particular piece now in question. He took part in the bringing out of the play, and also in its management, both in America and at the Olympic. He did not notice the exhibition of any fatigue on the plaintiff’s part at rehearsals. There would be naturally a reluctance to go through the laborious parts at rehearsals in the case of a lady of her position on the stage. He, however, wished her to be carried over the bridge, but he was asked by Mr. Standing not to insist upon it, as if this was done she would faint away. Witness had expected that she would be carried at night, but she was not carried. She did the best she could to assist Mr. Standing with her feet. She assisted herself up the stairs and over the bridge.
     She was supposed to be insensible?—She was supposed to be in a dead swoon, and he did not think that a person who was in a dead swoon would walk to the place of her own execution. (Loud laughter.) This sort of thing continued throughout the whole of her performance. He could not give the precise date when he became aware of the cause of this, but it was within a week, he thought, of the production of the piece. He saw Mr. Dacre. He came to witness’s room at the theatre, after the proposal to reduce his wife’s salary had been made by Mrs. Conover. There was a little shadow of truth, a little verbal truth, in the conversation spoken to as having taken place with him. He said that Mrs. Conover could readily break the engagement, and then he instanced what had sometimes been done. He said what she could do if she were dishonourable, which he knew her not to be. He never in any way suggested that she should so act. The witness added that another action had been brought against him for the same slander.
     Mr. Munsell Griffiths, a solicitor, who had been present at rehearsals and performances of the piece, said that, among others, he witnessed the performance on the 2nd of December, and she was not carried over the bridge. Further, when she was supposed to be tied to the stake, she did not scream so long or so loud as she should have done. (Laughter.)
     Three other witnesses gave some evidence as to the plaintiff’s performance in “Alone in London.”
     Mr. Henry Boss also gave some evidence. He said that he was at the theatre called acting manager, but in reality he was secretary.
     What did you call yourself?—Well, I was always there when I was called. (Laughter.) He believed that he had a conversation with Mr. Dacre, and he believed that it was in reference to the reduction of salaries all round. He could not remember that anything was said about the plaintiff leaving.
     Mr. Lockwood: Mr. Boss, you may return to your important duties.
     Witness: Well, they are important.
     This concluded the evidence for the defence, and thereupon Mr. Kemp summed up the evidence which he had presented to the jury. Mr. Lockwood, after that, replied upon the whole case.
     His lordship summed up, and the jury retired to consider the verdict.
     In half an hour they returned and said that they found that the slander was uttered, but that it did not injure the plaintiff; and as to the wrongful dismissal, they gave a verdict for the plaintiff for £190.

___

 

Lloyd’s Weekly Newspaper (23 January, 1887)

THEATRICAL SLANDER SUIT.

     In the Queen’s Bench division, on Monday, before Mr. Justice Grove and a special jury, Mrs. Dacre, better known as Miss Amy Roselle, the actress, sued Mrs. Conover, late of the Olympic theatre, to recover damages for slander of the plaintiff in her professional character, and also for wrongful dismissal.
     The defendant pleaded privilege, and also as to the contract for employment that there had been exoneration and discharge, and also recision of the contract.
     Mr. Lockwood, in opening the case, said that Miss Amy Roselle was married to Mr. Arthur Dacre, and in October, 1885, she was engaged for the run of Alone in London at the Olympic, commencing on Oct. 24, 1885; six weeks’ run guaranteed. She was to play the leading rôle, and she was to have 30l. a week. The piece could not be produced on Oct. 24, and its production was postponed until Nov. 2. Of course Miss Roselle was entitled to be paid for this time, but under the circumstances she generously accepted half salary in respect of it. The play was produced, and fell terribly flat. About the middle of November, he thought, morning performances took place, and Miss Roselle was entitled to be paid for these. Mr. Boss, the acting manager, asked her to accept, not full salary but half terms, in respect of that performance, but Mr. Dacre objected to this; and Mrs. Conover expressed regret that such an application should have been made to her, but she said that they were losing about 200l. a week. About Nov. 21 Mr. Dacre had a conversation with Mr. Boss with reference to his wife, who down to that time had played her part without any expression of dissatisfaction. He wrote to Mr. Boss, and some reference was made about the health of Mrs. Dacre, but her child was not born until March, 1886, and down to the time in question nothing had been said as to there being anything in her condition that interfered with the performance of her professional duties. Mr. Dacre having made the communication, however, the management fastened upon it to get themselves out of the financial difficulty that they were in. Mrs. Dacre continued playing until the night of December 2 the leading part of Nan, as well, as truly, and as forcibly and pathetically as she had ever played any part in her life. Unfortunately, it happened that when she on that evening went on in that rôle, there was some mistake as to her “cue.” this did not, however, affect the action of the piece at all. The next day, December 3, Mr. Martin, the solicitor to Mrs. Conover, wrote: “In consequence of your conduct last night, when I understand you purposely cut out a part of one act, and thereby seriously interfered with the proper performance of the play, I am instructed by Mrs. Conover and Mr. Buchanan to enclose you banknotes for 30l., in full discharge of your salary to the 4th inst., the date on which your engagement expires, and to request that you will not again take part in the performance of Alone in London at the Olympic theatre.” Similar statements were made at the theatre, and this constituted the libel complained of. It was not true that the engagement expired at that date, though Mrs. Dacre had made an offer to go on from that time at a fortnight’s notice, but that offer was not accepted. Now they said that her conduct entitled them to summarily dismiss her from the theatre, and the next night her part was taken by Miss Jay, who had only 10l. a week.
     Miss Amy Roselle was called and said that she had been in the profession about 16 years. Mrs. Conover expressed her regret that she had been asked to take less than her salary, and she said “In fact, you are worth all I pay you, and I do not know what the piece would be without you.” She continued, “The fact of the matter is that I am losing about 200l. a week. I am losing so much that my trustees will not allow me to continue much longer.” The witness added that her condition at that time in no way interfered with her performance. On the night of the mistake Miss Jay was playing Chickweed. Her part was to kiss witness’s hand. She then had to go to the gate, and should have stopped and said,  “Oh, you will come again promptly.” Instead of stopping she mistook the first “Good-bye,” and went straight off the stage. Her omission did not in the slightest interfere with the action of the piece. Such a thing frequently happened, and no complaint was made to her on that occasion. The performance continued under Mrs. Conover’s management until Jan. 15, 1886. What witness claimed was for six weeks’ salary, 180l. There were also three matinées which were 5l. each; she had been paid for one, and she claimed for two—that was 10l., making together 190l. as special damage. During all the time that she played she satisfactorily performed her part, and she did not suffer from fatigue or any other ailment. Her son was born on March 26, 1886. No announcement was made in public as to her sudden dismissal. It came to her knowledge that Miss Jay was to take her part in the provinces.
     On Tuesday Miss Amy Roselle was cross-examined by Mr. Kemp. She said the piece was the story of a brutal husband ill-treating his wife, and in one scene he attempted to murder her.—In one scene you have to fall down and to be carried over a bridge with a view of being murdered?—No; she did not have to fall down, but to fall into Mr. Standing’s arms.—And it became his duty to carry you?—To lead her off.—Did you, instead of being carried off, trip off or walk off?—No. —Before you commenced acting in this piece did Miss Jay tell you you could not perform the part as it required so much physical exertion, and that in consequence of your state of health?—Certainly not. Witness did not assure her that there was no truth in it. Her child was born on March 26. She had engaged herself for the run of the piece. She had not formed any intention when she should cease playing, for she was perfectly well as long as she played. She did not complain of or sneer at Miss Jay.
     Did she complain of the insulting way in which she was treated by your husband?—I have no knowledge of that. She had not heard it from anyone else. Her husband required that he should be in the theatre when she was playing. Was he admitted upon the condition that he should keep himself to your dressing-room?—He was admitted, I do not know upon what condition.
     Did you not inquire?—I was not on speaking terms with Mrs. Conover. She had caused a very unpleasant letter to be written to witness.
     That of November 21?—Yes. It was two nights after she had refused to act unless her husband was admitted. She was very much annoyed at getting that letter. It was rude.
     What was the rudeness in that letter?—In saying that she was not doing justice to the part. The expression was “not thereby further to jeopardise the success of the play.”
     Your husband wrote to Mrs. Conover as to that “gross, coarse, and indelicate letter I received last night, which has dispelled the illusion, as I am sure that there is no other manager that could have dictated it.”—Who was the person referred to as “contemptible enough?”—Mr. Boss, she supposed.
     Did you not consider that rude?—No; not under the circumstances. She knew of the letter before it was sent.
     Your husband also said, “I shall, however, be delighted when the time comes to take my wife away from an engagement where such utter want of principle is shown.”—That referred to a conversation her husband had with Mr. Buchanan.
     What was the want of principle?—Mr. Boss had asked her husband whether she would go on acting after the six weeks at a smaller salary, and Mr. Dacre called upon Mr. Buchanan, and he said that as far as she was concerned he should not insist upon carrying on her engagement after the six weeks, and would accept a fortnight’s notice. He added, “But how will you do with the other actors?” Mr. Buchanan said, “I can break the engagements in many ways. I could shut up the theatre for a night. It could be transferred to me, and they could play ‘Anatomy.’” This was what was meant by “utter want of principle.” She did not know that it was in consequence of her husband insulting Miss Jay that he was refused admission to the theatre. She did not ask; she was so indignant. On Nov. 19, 1885, she was advertised as “resting,” but that was not on account of ill-health.
     Re-examined: She wrote to Mr. Ledger, of the Era, correcting the announcement that had been made.
     Is there any justification for saying that you went off the stage too early on purpose?—Certainly not.
     You have your own professional reputation to consider and look to?—I should not have dared to do so, even if I had been malicious enough to have thought of it. Mrs. Conover never said anything about witness’s condition before her manager wrote. Witness did not herself know what was her condition when she entered into the engagement.
     Mr. Herbert Standing said that he played in Alone in London at the Olympic. He was upon the stage when the plaintiff was on the stage in the part of Nan nearly the whole of the time. He persecuted Miss Roselle through nearly the whole of the play (laughter). He observed that she ceased to appear there, and he asked Mrs. Conover the reason of the change when the plaintiff left.—What did Mrs. Conover say?—Mrs. Conover said, “This is a pretty fine —— thing” (loud laughter). I said, “What fine thing?” and she replied, “Why, Miss Roselle walked off the stage last night, with the intention of deliberately insulting Miss Jay, and to spoil the piece, and to shut up my theatre.” She also said that she had deliberately cut out part of a scene. In witness’s opinion the omission of a few words would not impair the action of the piece, or the success of that particular scene. It was a thing that frequently happened.
     Cross-examined by Mr. Kemp: He did not carry Miss Roselle off the stage. He dragged her off, and she assisted him with her feet. Why not carry her. She is a little, light thing—(loud laughter)—and you are a fine strong man?—Thank you (laughter). It was a dangerous scene to play in. He carried Miss Jay one night, and she was so nervous that she begged him not to do it again, and he was very glad not to do it (laughter).
     Mr. Dalton Somers, Mr. Leonard Boyne, Mr. Percy Bell, and Mr. John Tresahar said they considered Miss Roselle’s performance in Alone in London perfect.
     Mr. Alfred Burnham said he had been an acting manager at the Olympic, originally nominated by Mr. Buchanan. He should think that this was about the end of November, 1885. He heard that Miss Roselle was willing to accept a fortnight’s notice after the expiration of the six weeks, and he told Mrs. Conover this. The plaintiff was willing to agree to this provided that her husband was treated properly by being admitted to the theatre. He heard it said in the presence of the defendant that there was an arrangement that Miss Jay should take the part of the plaintiff. It was also said that Miss Jay felt insulted by Miss Roselle, and that it was done on purpose. The performance of the plaintiff was excellently done.
     Mrs. Patty Ephgraves was employed as a dresser at the Olympic theatre, and she saw the performance of December 2, and noticed nothing exceptional in it. She saw no confusion upon the stage, no insult, and no interference with the performance. Miss Roselle acted her part as well as upon the first night. Afterwards Mrs. Conover said of Miss Roselle, “That woman is not going to play.” Witness inquired whom she meant, and she said, “Miss Roselle.” She said that witness must get the room ready for Miss Gourley, who would play Miss Jay’s part, and that Miss Jay would take Miss Roselle’s part. After the performance Mrs. Conover said to Miss Jay, “You play the part capitally; even better than that other woman did, and you ought to have played it from the first night.” Some gentlemen who were at he theatre expressed their surprise that Miss Roselle did not appear, and Mrs. Conover said, “Oh no; she cut Miss Jay out last night purposely; and crabbed her” (laughter). Miss Jay did not appear “crabbed” when this was said to have happened. On one occasion witness, in reply to Mrs. Conover, had said that Miss Roselle was well, and she had not heard her complain of anything. Mrs. Conover and witness had a “row” (laughter), and she left.
     Mr. James Mortimer said on Nov. 23, 1885, he was “in front” of the theatre and saw the performance. He thought the plaintiff performed admirably in every respect.
     Miss Annie Rose, Mrs. Horace Neville, Mrs. Louisa Stirling, and Mrs. Lilly Hawkins gave evidence as to the excellence with which Miss Roselle played.
     Mr. John Laurence Toole said he was an actor, and the manager of a theatre in London.—It does sometimes happen that there is a leaving-out of lines by an actor?—Occasionally.—It has happened to yourself occasionally?—Yes.—To leave out some lines and introduce others (laughter)?—Yes.—It happens in playing long parts like Hamlet or Macbeth? —Yes.—Mr. Kemp: Mr. Toole’s favourite characters (laughter).—Mr. Toole: Not yet (laughter).—Mr. Lockwood: Looking at the extracts from this play and that part of the dialogue referred to as omitted, do you think it improbable that an actress might mistake to utter some of the words?—Yes, they are very similar.—It is suggested that Miss Roselle purposely left out these lines. What effect would that, in your opinion, have upon her professional position?
     Mr. Justice Grove: That is asking a matter which the jury have to decide.
     After discussion the question was rejected.
     Cross-examined: I took the liberty of suggesting some time ago that your best jokes were always your own?—Not always—that depends upon the play.—Are you an author as well as a player?—No, sir; I have never acknowledged that position.—You might be, like the author of “Waverley,” reserving yourself for a future occasion?—Very likely (loud laughter).
     Mr. Arthur Dacre, the plaintiff’s husband, who said in the course of his evidence that he was a medical man, spoke to an interview that he had had with Mr. Buchanan. On that occasion Mr. Buchanan said that all parties had agreed to take less salaries, and unless the plaintiff consented to do so the theatre would have to be closed. Witness said that his wife would not take less salary, and mentioned at the same time that she was enceinte. He added that she was able to play for months, but rather than have such a matter talked about his wife would resign at a fortnight after the six weeks. The witness positively denied that he had ever insulted Miss Jay in any way.
     This concluded the case for the plaintiff.
     Mr. Kemp then addressed the jury, in opening the case for the defendant, and congratulated them that they had at length got to the end of the first act in this domestic drama. He submitted to his lordship that what was said to be slanderous was really a privileged communication, the words having been spoken to persons who were engaged with the defendant in carrying on a particular business, and persons to whom the defendant was almost bound to communicate it. He asserted that Miss Roselle was not in December in a fit state of health to perform ‘so onerous a part as that of    “Nan.”’ The plaintiff certainly was not in a condition in which she was fit to be dragged about the stage and to undergo great physical exertion. She, in fact, tripped off the stage instead of being dragged off by “the accomplished villain” who had appeared before them. Complaints were made of this, but still she was not dismissed for it. She was dismissed because she omitted wilfully part of one scene for the purpose of annoying Miss Jay. He asked the jury to exercise their common sense upon that matter. The plaintiff was at the time becoming annoyed by Miss Jay; the omission spoilt Miss Jay as to a very good bit of acting, and the best of women would become extremely cat-like upon occasions (laughter). He put it to the jury that whatever amount of jealousy there might be among women outside, there was even more among women in the theatre. Mr. Dacre had previously annoyed Miss Jay in the course of her work, the plaintiff was about to leave the theatre and all this gave rise to the exhibition of a fit of spite against Miss Jay. If Mrs. Conover had desired to get rid of the plaintiff she could have done so by giving a fortnight’s notice; but she did not avail herself of this  opportunity, and therefore there could hardly have been this desire. The annoyance of the plaintiff and her husband was perfectly apparent, and he asked the jury to assume that they would be willing to put that annoyance into action in the way which he had suggested.
     On Wednesday Mrs. Ann Conover, the defendant, was called, and said that in 1885 she was unfortunately the lessee and manageress of the Olympic theatre. She thought Miss Roselle played her part in Alone in London very well, but she was too matronly for the part. After what took place on the 24th of November she was desirous of putting an end to the engagement as the end of six weeks, because she found that Miss Roselle was unfit to play in the part in her then condition. That was the only reason. She felt that she had been duped and made use of as a catspaw or a scapegoat (laughter). Miss Jay made a complaint as to Mr. Dacre, and afterwards the witness requested Mr. Buchanan that he should not be admitted to the theatre. He was afterwards admitted, but only to his wife’s dressing-room. Miss Jay on the 2nd of December complained that the plaintiff had left out a part of a scene. Miss Jay said——. —Mr. Lockwood objected that this was not evidence.—The Witness: My dear sir, you must allow me; I am “alone in London” and a foreigner (laughter). It is necessary for my own protection, for I am accused of slander where I have not uttered slander. —Mr. Lockwood: Excuse me, madam, I am not under your management yet (laughter).—Mr. Kemp: What a pity you are not (laughter)!—The witness, in continuation, denied having uttered any slander.—Cross-examined: She had never managed a theatre before she took the Olympic, nor since. She had not acted before then, but she had played since. She had played Lady Macbeth, but not with Mr. Toole (laughter). She was in a continual temper at the Olympic, and no doubt she said things which in her calmer moments she would not have thought of. She became inclined to stop the piece, but Mr. Buchanan wished it to go on. The performance did not pay. She considered that the plaintiff had entered into her service under false pretences. She treated Miss Roselle with the greatest courtesy; but she treated the witness simple as a bank to draw her money from.
     Miss Harriet Jay said that she was an actress and an authoress also. When the piece was to be brought out the witness was offered the part of Nan; but she herself suggested that Miss Roselle should play that part. Soon after Miss Roselle came the witness asked her if she was enceinte, and she said, “No.” The witness said this because she did not show enough exertion in the part. She appeared so exhausted on several occasions that the witness sent her some wine. When the witness afterwards asked the plaintiff the question again she admitted it. The witness remembered part of the scene being left out. Miss Roselle never before omitted it. She did not behave very well to the witness. She was very insulting to her on the stage. Their parts were very sympathetic, and the coldness of the plaintiff’s demeanour, and her looking at the witness so disdainfully, utterly unnerved her, and prevented her from acting properly. Mr. Dacre behaved rudely to her.
     Mr. Robert Buchanan said that he was joint author with Miss Jay of the piece now in question. He did not notice the exhibition of any fatigue on the plaintiff’s part at rehearsals. He wished her to be carried over the bridge; but he was asked by Mr. Standing not to insist upon it, as if this was done she would faint away. She assisted herself with her feet up the stairs and over the bridge. She was supposed to be in a dead swoon; and he did not think that a person who was in a dead swoon would walk to the place of her own execution (laughter). This sort of thing continued throughout the whole of her performance.
     Mr. Mansell Griffiths, a solicitor, who had been present at rehearsals and performances of the piece, said that among others he witnessed the performance on Dec. 2nd, and Miss Roselle was not carried over the bridge. Further, when she was supposed to be tied to a stake, she did not scream so long nor so loud as she should have done (laughter).
     Mrs. Frank Sutherland said that she witnessed the plaintiff’s performance, and she spoke to Mrs. Conover as to the personal appearance of Miss Roselle.
     Arthur Hider, late prompter at the Olympic, proved that Miss Roselle was not carried over the bridge by Mr. Standing. She assisted herself on the tips of her toes.
     Frank Harrison, assistant prompter, gave evidence of the omission by Miss Roselle.
     Miss Edith Francillon, sister of the novelist, deposed to seeing Miss Jay play Annie Meadows, and she was carried over the bridge.
     Mr. Henry Boss, secretary and treasurer at the Olympic, spoke to having had a conversation with Mr. Dacre about a reduction of his wife’s salary.
     Mr. Kemp then summed up the case for the defendant. He contended that if Mrs. Conover did make use of the words constituting the alleged slander, they were uttered bonâ fide and without malice. The dismissal, he submitted, was due to Miss Roselle’s own conduct throughout, and from the want of fairness with which she treated Mrs. Conover.
     Mr. Lockwood, in replying upon the whole case, answered the question, What damage had the plaintiff suffered? by pointing out that if the verdict was for the defendant it would stamp Miss Roselle as a lady who had been guilty of conduct which rendered her a disgrace to her profession. Pointing out what he considered to be the weakness of the defendant’s case, Mr. Lockwood remarked that he could fancy her counsel saying, in consultation, “I will try and get you off with a fortnight”—(laughter)—meaning a fortnight’s wages.
     Mrs. Conover (who occupied a chair at the back of the jury box) excitedly exclaimed, “He never spoke to me at all.”
     Mr. Lockwood: Ah, that temper (laughter)! [Mrs. Conover here hurriedly pushed her way out of court.] I am glad, gentlemen, I was not in that management.
     The learned counsel having concluded his speech, the judge summed up.
     The jury, after half an hour’s absence, found that the slander was uttered, but that it did not injure the plaintiff. As for the wrongful dismissal, they found for the plaintiff for the amount claimed—190l.

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Another legal action by Amy Roselle, this time accusing Robert Buchanan of slander, arose from the same incident.

 

The Times (2 March, 1886)

ROSELLE V. BUCHANAN.

     This is an action of slander brought by Miss Roselle, the actress, against Mr. Buchanan, the dramatic author. The case now came before the Court on appeal from an order of Mr. Justice Field at Chambers directing the plaintiff to give particulars of the persons to whom, the times when, and places where the alleged slander was uttered.
     Mr. KISCH, for the plaintiff, said that he should be quite willing to give the particulars for which the defendant asked if the latter first delivered his statement of defence, or particulars of the times when and places where the slander was uttered at once. The slander complained of was set forth in these words in the statement of claim:—“The reason why Mrs. Dacre” (meaning the plaintiff) “did not perform last night” (meaning December 4, 1885) “was that she deliberately cut out a portion of an act of Alone in London, and thereby seriously interfered with the proper performance of the play”; and, further:—“Miss Roselle had purposely cut out a scene with Miss Jay, and had walked off the stage with the intention of insulting her.” If the plaintiff were forced now to give the names of the persons to whom the slander was uttered she would be much prejudiced in her action, as the names would be those of persons now in the employ of Mrs. Conover, against whom she had brought an action for breach of contract and whose interests were, to a great extent, the same as those of the defendant. The defendant asked for particulars which the plaintiff by law could not be required to furnish. If the defendant intended to plead a justification he could not want the particulars, and if he did not intend to justify he could, after delivering his statement of defence, get the information for which he now asked by interrogating the plaintiff.
     MR. JUSTICE STEPHEN observed that if the defendant intended to plead privilege it was most important to him to know to whom the slander was alleged to have been uttered. The Court was informed by the Master that it was now the invariable practice at Chambers to make such an order for particulars as that for which the defendant was asking, and this, too, before the delivery of a statement of defence.
     Mr. KISCH said that the present appeal was brought with a view of altering that practice, for there was no law to support it. The learned counsel cited “Eade and another v. Jacobs” (3 Exch. Div., 335).
     Mr. MARTYN, for the defendant, cited “Bradbury v. Cooper” (12 Q. B. Div., 95).
     The COURT dismissed the appeal, with costs.

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The Era (6 March, 1886)

THEATRICAL LITIGATION.
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     The case of “Roselle v. Buchanan” came before Justices Grove and Stephen in the Queen’s Bench Division on Monday. It is an action brought by Miss Amy Roselle, the well-known actress, a married lady suing in respect of her separate estate, against Mr Robert Buchanan for slander. In December, 1885, the plaintiff was performing a leading part in the play entitled Alone in London at the Olympic Theatre, under the management of Mrs Anna Conover, and the slander charged was that the defendant had maliciously spoken of the plaintiff in relation to her profession as an actress the following words:—“The reason why Mrs Dacre (meaning the plaintiff) did not perform last night (December 4th, 1885) was that she deliberately cut out a portion of an act of Alone in London, and thereby seriously interfered with the performance of the play, which was stated to be the joint production of Mr Buchanan and Miss Jay, and that Miss Roselle had purposely cut out part of a scene with Miss Jay, and had walked off the stage with the intention of insulting her.” In the action, the plaintiff claims £500 as damages.
     Mr Henry Kisch now appealed against an order made by Mr Justice Field at chambers, directing that the plaintiff should give particulars as to the names of the persons to whom the alleged slanderous words were uttered, and also of the places at which they were uttered, but as regarded this latter part of the order the plaintiff did not object, and was willing to give particulars as to the places, although in point of law he (the learned counsel) submitted she was not called upon to give them until the defendant had delivered his statement of defence. He submitted that the particulars asked for were not essential for the defendant in this action, there being another pending against Mrs Conover, for if he justified that slander the information asked for was within the defendant’s own knowledge, and if he did not he could interrogate the plaintiff after he had set up his defence.
     Mr Justice Stephen—But suppose the defendant pleaded that the words were privileged, it would be material for him to know whether they were uttered to A or B. In the one case they might have been uttered to a partner, and would be privileged, and in the other not.
     Mr Kisch said that what the plaintiff really objected to was giving the names of persons to whom the slander was uttered, as they were filling engagements at Mrs Conover’s theatre at highly remunerative salaries, and if their names were disclosed it would cause disunion between them and their employer which might lead to their dismissal.
     Mr Martyn on behalf of the defendant, opposed the application, contending that according to the existing practice at chambers the defendant was entitled to the particulars asked for, and cited some cases in which Mr Justice Field had so held.
     After some further argument, their lordships observed that the practice at chambers had been subjected to perpetual changes since they had sat there, but they could not set up their past experience against the practice as now upheld. They must, therefore, dismiss this appeal, the costs of which would be costs in the cause when the action was tried. Judgment accordingly.

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The Era (11 June, 1887 - p.14)

ROSELLE V. BUCHANAN.

     The action “Roselle v. Buchanan” was set down for trial, before Baron Huddleston and a special jury, in the Court of Queen’s Bench, on Tuesday morning. The plaintiff, Mrs Dacre (known in theatrical circles as Miss Amy Roselle), sued Mr Robert Buchanan, the dramatic author, for damages for slander, committed in respect to plaintiff’s performance in Alone in London at the Olympic Theatre. The statement of claim alleged that the defendant spoke of the plaintiff words to the effect that on one occasion she deliberately cut out a portion of an act, and thereby seriously interfered with the proper performance of the play. Mr Lockwood, Q.C., and Mr Henry Kisch (instructed by Mr F. C. James, Quality-court, Chancery-lane), appeared for the plaintiff; Mr Martin represented the defendant.
     On the case being called on, Mr Lockwood said:—This, your lordship, is an action brought by Miss Amy Roselle, an actress, against Mr Robert Buchanan for slander. Various defences are raised upon the record; but I am happy to inform you that they have been withdrawn, and that an apology has been made by Mr Buchanan. I have here the documents containing the apology signed by Mr Buchanan. That apology is satisfactory to Miss Roselle, and the costs having been paid by Mr Buchanan, I have to ask that the record may be withdrawn.
     Baron Huddleston—Does any one object? Mr Martin—No.
     Baron Huddleston—I cannot allow the record to be withdrawn except some explanation is given.
     Mr Lockwood—The explanation is that an apology has been made, and the costs of the action paid by Mr Buchanan.
     Baron Huddleston—That’s a very good explanation. (To Mr Martin) You agree to apologise and to pay.
     Mr Lockwood—They have done it, my lord.
     Mr Martin—Yes, that is so.
     The record was then allowed to be withdrawn, the Judge pronouncing for costs to the plaintiff.

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Reynolds’s Newspaper (12 June, 1887)

ACTIONS FOR SLANDER.

     On Tuesday, in the Queen’s Bench Division, before Baron Huddleston and a special jury, on the case of Roselle v. Buchanan being called on, Mr. Lockwood, Q.C., on behalf of the plaintiff, stated that it was an action brought by Miss Amy Roselle, an actress, against Mr. Robert Buchanan, to recover damages for slander. Various defences were raised on the record, but they had been withdrawn, and an apology had been made by Mr. Buchanan, which was satisfactory to Miss Roselle. The costs of the action had also been paid by the defendant, and therefore he would suggest that the record should be withdrawn. Mr. Martin, on behalf of the defendant, consented to this course, and his lordship acquiescing, the record was accordingly withdrawn.

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The New York Times (26 June, 1887)

     “Cutting” has become so customary that it is a woeful injustice to charge an actor with it who has forgotten to be  guilty. Robert Buchanan “only said” that Amy Roselle, who played here 15 years ago, by the way, had “cut” her lines in “Alone in London.” Amy is not friendless having last year been married to Arthur Dacre, who may be recalled as a light- weight in Kate Claxton’s company eight or nine years ago, when he seemed in doubt whether to turn actor or butcher, he having studied surgery. Buchanan was, the other day, in London, brought up for slander. He apologized to the lady as poet and dramatist should, and court closed.

amyroselle

Searching for pictures of Amy Roselle (above), I came across the rather tragic story of what became of her and her husband, Arthur Dacre. Nothing to do with Buchanan at all but for those whose curiosity is piqued, I direct you to the History of Australian Theatre site.

And apropos of that, I came across the following comment from the London correspondent of The Derby Daily Telegraph (19th November, 1895) - the ‘dreadful poem’, by the way, is ‘Fra Giacomo’:

     “The last appearance Arthur Dacre made before his friends was at the Savage Club, at the usual Saturday night dinner, just before his wife and he sailed for Australia. His health and the success of their tour were toasted with great cordiality, Phil May, the caricaturist, who was in the chair, calling upon the actor for a speech. As always, his wife was the one theme of the speech, which he followed by a recitation of Robert Buchanan’s dreadful poem wherein the husband stabs the priestly lover of his wife. He left the club shortly afterwards, and the last thoughts about him of the hundred or so Bohemians among his audience were thus centred, by a horrible coincidence, on a knife dripping with blood. The picture of him enacting his murderous hatred of the priest I can never erase from my mind.”

 

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