Play List:

1. The Rath Boys

2. The Witchfinder

3. A Madcap Prince

4. Corinne

5. The Queen of Connaught

6. The Nine Days’ Queen

7. The Mormons

8. The Shadow of the Sword

9. Lucy Brandon

10. Storm-Beaten

11. Lady Clare

[Flowers of the Forest]

12. A Sailor and His Lass

13. Bachelors

14. Constance

15. Lottie

16. Agnes

17. Alone in London

18. Sophia

19. Fascination

20. The Blue Bells of Scotland

21. Partners

22. Joseph’s Sweetheart

23. That Doctor Cupid

24. Angelina!

25. The Old Home

26. A Man’s Shadow

27. Theodora

28. Man and the Woman

29. Clarissa

30. Miss Tomboy

31. The Bride of Love

32. Sweet Nancy

33. The English Rose

34. The Struggle for Life

35. The Sixth Commandment

36. Marmion

37. The Gifted Lady

38. The Trumpet Call

39. Squire Kate

40. The White Rose

41. The Lights of Home

42. The Black Domino

43. The Piper of Hamelin

44. The Charlatan

45. Dick Sheridan

46. A Society Butterfly

47. Lady Gladys

48. The Strange Adventures of Miss Brown

49. The Romance of the Shopwalker

50. The Wanderer from Venus

51. The Mariners of England

52. Two Little Maids from School

53. When Knights Were Bold

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ROBERT WILLIAMS BUCHANAN (1841 - 1901)

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THEATRE REVIEWS

44. The Charlatan (1894) - continued

 

The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News (27 January, 1894 - p.15)

“THE CHARLATAN.”

     THE scene which our artist has selected for illustration from the novel play produced on the 18th by Mr. Tree from the pen of Mr. Buchanan, at the Haymarket Theatre, is the powerful situation at the end of the second act. Miss Arlington (Mrs. Tree), being worked up to a hyper-nervous condition by the supposed appearance of the spirit of her father, falls immediately afterwards upon her knees and covers her eyes, overcome by intense excitement as the drop act falls. Around her are Philip Woodville (Mr. Tree), Lord Dewsbury (Mr. F. Terry), Madame Obnoskin (Miss G. Kingston), Lady Charlotta (Miss Lily Hanbury) &c., &c.

(p.17)

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(p.18)

DRESS AT THE HAYMARKET.

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(p.28)

HAYMARKET THEATRE.

     OPINIONS seem to differ considerably concerning The Charlatan, the new piece by Mr. Robert Buchanan just produced with somewhat doubtful results at the Haymarket. They do not differ at all as to the showy effectiveness of the parts provided in the piece for Mr. and Mrs. Beerbohm Tree, or as to the brilliant art of their treatment by those two skilful players. On the whole, therefore, it seems safe to prophecy for the production a success something better than a succès d’estime, and something less satisfactory than a popular triumph. This latter might, we believe, have been secured if the author had been willing to sacrifice his satirical purpose to his romance and frankly to treat the incidents of his stage story with a view to the emotional entertainment of his audience. It is true that there is not much of absolute novelty about Mr. Buchanan’s work of fiction, which indeed puts forward no official claim to being “original,” and which, either in motive or incident, calls to mind now Mr. Besant’s Herr Paulus, now Mr. Henry Arthur Jones’s Judah, and now L’Aventuriére of Emil Augier. But this would matter little provided that the motives were consistently developed, and the incidents effectively handled, since in such matters it may fairly be contended by the playwright that the end justifies the means. Moreover, it was a happy thought to seek for new sensational possibilities in a craze so essentially novel as that of the wonder working theosophist and his disciples. The trick of the spirit-likeness suddenly displayed before the credulous eyes of the Earl of Wanborough and his sceptical guests, has in it all the elements of stage-success—though since the sham Mahatma subsequently avows it to be a trick, he should be made to satisfy us as to its mechanism. The episode of the heroine’s somnambulism under the hypnotizing influence of the hero—an episode already employed in Mr. H. H. Morel’s “Dark Continent”—is full of melodramatic meaning, and can be readily made to thrill its unscientific spectators. All this material is well chosen by Mr. Buchanan, and, up to a certain point, well employed. The mistake is the attempt made about half-way through the play to change the central character from a contemptible adventurer into a hero of romance, whose tardy repentance entitled him not only to the forgiveness, but actually to the love of his unfortunate victim. The result is altogether unsatisfactory to the spectator, who finds himself called upon to bless where he has been waiting ready to curse, and is asked to sympathise rather with the imposter who has been denounced, than with the honest man from whom the denunciation has proceeded. We may readily admit that some mercy should be shown in fiction, as in real life, to the criminal who penitently foregoes the worst of his projected offences; but there should surely be some limitation to his reward even where his representative chances to be an actor-manager. The character, however, of Philip Woodville, theosophist and trickster, mesmerizer and Mahatma, is admirably rendered by Mr. Beerbohm Tree both before and after its strained rehabilitation. Made up as cleverly as ever, Mr. Tree completely sinks his own personality in that of the bland self-reliant mysterious Eurasian, whose complexion betrays his Indian descent, whilst his manner suggests eastern cunning half concealed under the reserve of European repose. Even Mr. Tree cannot persuade us of the purity of the passion which Woodville suddenly pours into the ear of the young lady, whose mental weakness he has abused by drawing her in a trance to his room at midnight. But he does at least realise for us most convincingly the subtle influence exercised by a man of strong will over a girl of dreamy imagination, neurotic tendency, and feeble volition. He takes easy command in each scene where he appears and he even manages to make wrong appear right when Woodville is allowed a moral—or rather an immoral—victory over Lord Dewsbury, his honest, if rather priggish, rival in love, whose only fault it is that he is intolerant of imposture and rude to impostors. This Lord Dewsbury affords Mr. Fred Terry a thankless rôle for he has to be constantly uttering threats which prove impotent and ends by losing his fiancée in very unheroic fashion. Mrs. Tree’s embodiment of Isabel Arlington, visionary hysterical and yet full of feminine charm, is one of the best things that she has done, and her singing of her plaintive song in the first act is of its kind quite perfect.
     The underplot of The Charlatan which illustrates the courtship of a robust specimen of healthy girlhood by an apostle of individualism, constitutes the most entertaining, and in many respects the most successful part of the play. The Hon. Mervyn Darrel is a languid young gentleman with a good many smart Oscar-Wildeish things to say about the aroma of literary decay, the vulgarity of Dickens and plum pudding, and the popular failure which constitutes the only true success. Of course some of his epigrams are distinctly reminiscent of Lady Windermere’s Fan, and equally of course some of his burlesqued pessimism recalls that of the objectionable young philosopher of Judah. But for all that he is a very amusing creature, and his delightful egotism finds its best possible exponent in Mr. Frederick Kerr. Miss Lily Hanbury, too, is an ideal representative of the large-limbed, healthy-minded, unæsthetic Lady Charlotta, whose verbal duets with her cousin end in the promise of matrimonial peace. The talk between these two is a great deal better written than the tiresome passages intended to parody the jargon of Theosophy and the black art of the day. Madame Obnoskin, for example, who is scheming by the aid of her “shining presences” and her manifestations to become the wife of her old dupe the Earl of Wanborough, is a personage not less tedious than conventional, and Miss Gertrude Kingston’s rather stagey method accentuates the unreality of the sketch. Mr. Charles Allan on the other hand, gives life-like unction to the worldly-wise Dean, who is quite content to play at spiritualism, provided the unholy game takes place in the best house of the neighbourhood. Mrs. E. H. Brooke as the Dean’s feebly remonstrant wife, and Miss Irene Vanbrugh as his learned daughter, both make the most of slight opportunities, whilst Mr. Holman Clarke makes a quaint materialist Professor and Mr. Nutcombe Gould gives an unmistakably aristocratic air to the folly of the Earl of Wanborough. On the whole, in fact, Mr. Buchanan’s play is acted extremely well all round, and its author has only the inconsistencies and contradictions of his own work to thank for any disappointment which it may cause to its spectators. There is much that is good in the play—so much, that its blunders, which as it seems to us might so easily have been avoided, cause special regret. That it is mounted and dressed in perfect taste at the Haymarket scarcely need be said. We may, however, suggest that some of the effects of twilight as seen in the White Gallery of Wanborough Castle hardly appear to have been studied from nature. A setting sun capable of emitting the brilliant rays which here shine through the window would render such darkness as that of the stage during Mrs. Tree’s song quite impossible.

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The Graphic (27 January, 1894)

“The Charlatan”

BY W. MOY THOMAS

     THE romantic criminal hero who fills so large a space in the earlier works of Lord Lytton and Mr. Harrison Ainsworth seemed but the other day to have gone entirely out of fashion, and even to have fallen hopelessly under the ban of the official Licenser of Plays. Old modes, however, are apt to come back, and thanks to Mr. Beerbohm Tree and the dramatists who are ready to take the measure of that popular actor and manager for a new part, this personage is now re-established on the London stage in an even more subtle and seductive form than of yore. He is known, moreover, to be in especial favour with the ladies among the audiences at the HAYMARKET, who are believed to extend to his crimes a considerable measure of condonation in consideration of his elegant exterior, his polished manners, his impressive self- assurance, and his eye like Mars, to threaten and command.
     Captain Swift, though he refrained from pulling the trigger when he presented the pistol at the head of Mr. Willing and robbed that forgiving Australian of a valuable horse, could hardly have achieved his notoriety as a bushranger without placing one or two murders to his account; but he had the grace in the end to recognise the inconveniences of his rather complex antecedents by blowing out his own brains. Philip Woodville, the hero of Mr. Buchanan’s new play, is, on the contrary, clearly marked out at the fall of the curtain to be the future husband of the beautiful and innocent Isabel Arlington whom he has, by subtle arts and contrivances won away from her allegiance as the betrothed of her cousin Lord Dewsbury. Yet this mysterious Eurasian, hypnotist, and avowed “Charlatan” has—not in a remote, Australian past, but before the eyes and ears of the audience, been guilty of offences which, if less grave than assassination in the view of our criminal code, are certainly more odious in the eyes of right feeling persons. In London he has met Isabel, niece and ward of the Earl of Wanborough, at whose too hospitable Castle the action passes; and fascinated by her person and manners, he has conceived a peculiarly cowardly and cunning plot to bring her into his power. His first step is to gain admission to the Castle, which he does by virtue of the Earl’s weakness for the now fashionable pastimes of Theosophy and Hypnotism. Philip is an adept in theosophical and hypnotic doctrines and practices.He has already a secret accomplice in the house in the person of Madame Obnoskin, who aims at inveigling the Earl, a widower, into her toils, and having made the discovery that Isabel is grieving about the disappearance of her father in Thibet, he contrives, by some unexplained means, to call up a sort of vision of the missing officer at a dark séance in the drawing-room of the Castle. As Philip has previously assured Isabel that her father lives, and the lights are no sooner turned up than a telegram is opened confirming his assurance, the telepathic gift of the mysterious Eurasian is supposed to be demonstrated by these proceedings, though Philip has, in fact, only availed himself of information privately received by him. Such arts are obviously calculated to work on the feelings and imagination of the affectionate daughter, whom Mrs. Tree impersonates with equal refinement, tenderness, and pathos; but they have little to do with the culminating act of the Eurasian’s perfidy. This consists in exercising his supposed hypnotic powers in such wise that Isabel is constrained to arise from her bed, and clothed only in her night-gown, to pay a visit to her unscrupulous admirer at midnight in the lonely “turret room” of the castle. Here, while still in her somnolent condition, she makes avowal of her love for the insinuating Eurasian; but she is supposed to be rescued from her compromising and perilous position by Philip’s sudden revulsion of feeling, under the influence of which he arouses her and makes full confession of his atrocious scheme. This and his subsequent acknowledgment made in the presence of the Earl and his guests are the elements whose redeeming quality is assumed to fit Philip to become one day the husband of the sweet and pure-minded Isabel, who, it is true, is nothing loth to overlook his transgressions. The shabby imposture by which Claude Melnotte entrapped the proud Pauline into a marriage, however, really shows fair beside the methods and the objects of Mr. Buchanan’s Eurasian, who has not even the excuse to plead of wounded pride. His final forbearance must be taken with some abatement when it is considered that persistence would inevitably have brought him within the folds of the criminal law.
     Not the least offensive part of his machinations is reckless disregard for the young lady’s reputation. That there was risk of her being seen on her way to and from the turret room must have been known to him, and, as a fact, she had been detected by the watchful eyes of Madame Obnoskin, who, in vexation at the failure of her own schemes, proclaims the compromising fact the next morning before the entire household. It might be thought hard to make a hero out of Philip Woodville; but the subtle charm of Mr. Tree’s acting counts for much, and the author has ingeniously contrived to maintain the key of mystery which leaves the spectator with little inclination for analysing motives or subjecting the story to test of common sense. This is the more remarkable by reason of the prominence which he has nevertheless given to some amusing sketches of character conceived in a lighter vein which are very cleverly played by Mr. Fred Kerr, Miss Lily Hanbury, Mr. Allan, Mr. Holman Clark, Miss Irene Vanbrugh, and Mrs. E. H. Brooke. The stately courtesy of Mr. Nutcombe Gould’s portrait of the Earl of Wanborough has a charm of its own; but the elderly nobleman’s fatuous gullibility necessarily detracts from our respect for him. Mr. Fred Terry, as Lord Dewsbury, labours under a somewhat similar difficulty arising from the circumstance that the plan of the story requires that, while he is indulging in impotent threats and remonstrances, his rival, Philip Woodville, is constantly inflicting upon him bitter humiliations.

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The Illustrated London News (27 January, 1894 - p.4)

THE PLAYHOUSES.

BY CLEMENT SCOTT.

Mr. Robert Buchanan set himself a very difficult task when he selected hypnotism and the occult sciences as a subject for drama. But, as events have proved, he did not shoot very far wide of the mark. he has contrived, at any rate, to interest an audience with his “Charlatan.” At the outset, few could have believed that anything like a dramatic effect could spring from an hypnotic séance conducted by a cheat, or that laughter could have been avoided when this same airy impostor is converted from the error of his ways by the sight of his innocent victim shivering in his haunted bed-chamber after an airy excursion on the roof of an ancestral mansion in the lightest possible attire. The play may be disjointed and creak a bit every now and then, but it certainly does interest. When the ghost appears at the bidding of the Charlatan you might hear a pin drop, and there is the true dramatic shiver when the repentant impostor sends the poor cold lady back to her bed in the middle of the night at the exact moment when there is a mysterious knocking at the door. On the first night it seemed to me that Mr. Beerbohm Tree had not quite made up his mind what to do with the part. It is a difficult one, no doubt, and this admirable actor, with his strong personality, is not in the habit of making mistakes. The man half through the play is a humbug and a scoundrel; for the other half he is abject in his contrition. This foreknowledge that the man had to repent seemed to take the veneer off the villain and the oil out of the humbug. I know I am in a minority, but the “make up,” in this instance, did not impress me in the least. It was not strong or showy enough. A man of that pattern should surely be the observed of all observers, and have a certain mystery marked on his face. I seemed to want a face more like the Abbé Liszt, or, say, the late J. C. M. Bellew, the fashionable preacher—but a young face, with prematurely grey hair. And there were some scenes where the hypnotiser seemed to throw away the chances for the exhibition of his own power. It may be impossible for a hypnotist to “will” a victim out of bed ever so far away, and a wholly unscientific proceeding; but surely in the love scene, where there is actual contact, the hypnotist would have caught the girl by the wrists and forced her, even against her will, to look straight into his eyes. Surely here was where he would have communicated his power if he had any. But the hypnotic humbug, in this instance, made very little use of his eyes at all—the very organ where the secret of taming exists. Mrs. Tree was the exact nervous, shrinking woman that the story required. She was an ideal “subject” in that scene in the moonlight where she croons a mournful song, and her acting in the somnambulistic scene was wholly admirable. But up to this point I could not quite see why the girl should be so affected by a non-powerful man—an interesting man, no doubt, but with not very much electricity about him. Both Mr. and Mrs. Tree were, however, at their best in the haunted turret, and the curtain fell on a strong effect.
     One of the showiest, and by far the best written, characters in the play is the modern prig-philosopher, played so excellently by Mr. F. Kerr. I hope the play will be published, in order to enable one to read this part, one of the most brilliant things in satire that Mr. Buchanan has ever done. The school was ripe for satirical treatment, and it has got it hot and strong. There is not a spice of cruelty in the castigation, but the author whips the folly with a relish. We could have had a good deal more of Mr. Kerr; in fact, I think that some of the old Earl’s guests might have had a little more to say. They cut the modern Dean and the modern young lady remarkably short, but I suppose they wanted to get on with the ghost.
     I must candidly own that I am not so fond of the society of intensely disagreeable women as some of my friends appear to be: with a little tact you can generally manage to avoid their society in real life unless they are fastened on to you by accident at a dinner party, but I defy anyone to cold-shoulder these dreadful creatures in a Norwegian drama. Ibsen’s cantankerous cats were bad enough in all conscience, but Björnsen’s are infinitely worse. I honestly do not think I have ever met two more disagreeable women anywhere than the mother and daughter played by Miss Louise Moodie and Miss Annie Rose in the new Norwegian play, “The Gauntlet.” They grumble and growl at men until they worry the poor audience into fiddlestrings. It is very ungallant to say so, but I wish some Scandinavian dramatist would, just for a change, take the other side of the question and pull the women to pieces. Are all these Pharisees in petticoats, who are perpetually thanking God that they are not as other women are, consistently immaculate? Are they incapable of error, these strange women who are incapable of forgiveness? Do they never do any wrong that they are so prone to lecture others? The wonder is that any man should want to live with such Grumbletonians. Mr. Ries would have been worse than a fool to stay at home to be talked at and snubbed by his vinegar-faced spouse, and to be insulted by a graceless creature who simply turns her back upon him when he affectionately unpacks some present he has brought home to make peace with his shrewish wife and his priggish daughter. What a state of society, when a Norwegian wife treats the breadwinner and the father of her children worse than the dirt under her feet, and when the Norwegian innocent and immaculate girl smacks her lover’s face because, having erred, he is asking for forgiveness! The maxim “To err is human; to forgive divine,” is apparently unknown to the women of the cruel North. But in good truth have we not had almost enough of this suburban philosophy, these electro-plate ethics? In a clever play we can swallow them with a wry face, but served up in a badly cooked play they turn the stomach. The best acting came from Mr. George Hawtrey, but it would be a serious risk to insure the life of such a play as this. Miss Kate Santley returned to the stage as bright and melodious as ever. Time seems to have stood still with this charming little favourite, and her Penelope, the Area Belle, was a welcome relief to the grumbling women who preceded her. Why not try a triple bill at the Royalty, and let the poor folks have some honest laughter? Life is sad and miserable enough without exaggerating its miseries, domestic and otherwise, on the stage.

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charlatanscene

[Original painting by Sir Amédée Forestier.]

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Black and White (27 January, 1894)

THE PLAY-HOUSES.

“THE CHARLATAN” AT THE HAYMARKET THEATRE.

     THERE are few more brilliant semi-public—we say semi-public advisedly, since nearly every seat is filled by invitation—functions than a first night at the Haymarket Theatre; and première of Mr. Robert Buchanan’s four-act drama, The Charlatan, was an occasion of exceptional smartness. A crowded and critical assembly was delighted with the play. There was no possible, probable shadow of doubt, no shadow of doubt whatever about that. It listened with interest from curtain-rise to curtain-set; it accorded the actors a double call after one of the acts; it applauded handsomely at the end, and insisted on the appearance of the company, the manager, and the author. More than this; it would not let Mr. Tree retire until he had spoken. So he spoke, perpetrating one of the most piquant infelicities it has ever been our fortune to hear. There is an ancient adage which forbids us to speak of rope in the presence of the about to be hanged, said Mr. Tree, or words to that effect; and, with a graceful bow to the author of The Charlatan, who was standing in the wings, he proceeded to talk of the play which was to succeed it. We are particularly anxious to do Mr. Buchanan and Mr. Tree the justice of placing on record the excellent reception; since, in our own judgment, so tedious and indifferent a play has not been seen at the Haymarket for many a year. Imitations are the reigning weakness of the day. Clever mimics of actors and singers at the “halls” receive almost as much salary and attention as the originals themselves, and it would almost seem to us that in The Charlatan it has been the author’s object to give us a series of imitations of the methods of his principal rivals. The whole of the play passes in the country house of an earl; its personæ are the noble lord’s family and guests; the pivot on which it turns is the exposure of a fin-de-siècle and spurious assumption of supernatural power. Was it otherwise with Judah? The chief character is an adventurer whose audacity, good looks, and pleasant manners procure for him the entrée into a good English family, where he wins the heart of a heiress, a ward of the head of the house, but is saved by his nobler instincts from abusing his advantage. Did Captain Swift behave differently? Again, might not Philip Woodville, the hero, have walked straight out of the pages of Mr. Marion Crawford’s first, and, on the whole, most successful, novel, “Mr. Isaacs”? And did not Mr. Walter Besant’s  “Dr. Paulus” anticipate the Buchanan apparition? Lastly, was there ever dialogue more Wildian than the short and brilliant little passage in which the sage professor is asked at what conclusions he has arrived, and replies that he is too old to arrive at conclusions—they are the privilege of youth? There is, however, one charge brought against the author which, we think, falls to the ground. The finest and most dramatic scene is that in which the Cagliostro stands at his bedroom window and, casting his spell over a fair lady sleeping in a chamber by no means neighbour to his own, brings her out in the moonlight along the castle parapets to himself. It is alleged that the hypnotiser would have to either see or touch his patient to use his power; but it should be remembered that the force claimed by the Mahatmas is something very much more than mesmerism. Did not Mr. Isaacs with uplifted hand turn the figures at the well into statues from behind them, and full a mile away?
     The best that can be said of Mr. Tree as Philip is that in this character he succeeds in utterly divesting himself of his mannerisms: a triumph on which we cannot help congratulating this great actor from the bottom of our hearts. It promises so splendidly for his future developments. Mrs. Tree as Isabelle, the heroine, sighed and suffered in musical tones, and gracious poses, and delicious gowns. There is no lady on the English stage who dresses with half the taste of Mrs. Tree. In sterling contrast was Miss Lily Hanbury’s Lady Carlotta, the ideal of the well-born, imperially-moulded, honest, healthy, common-sensed, English girl, alert with the joy of life, nothing but a note of refinement in the voice wanting to complete the portrait. As for Mr. Fred Kerr’s Hon. Mervyn Darrell, he was
aut diabolus aut Juxon Prall.

 

[Note: This review immediately followed an interview with Robert Buchanan which is available here.]

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The Penny Illustrated Paper (27 January, 1894 - p.58)

     Everyone agreed on the first night that the opening scene of Mr. Robert Buchanan’s new Haymarket play of “The Charlatan”—the White Gallery of Wanborough Castle—was a perfect triumph of scene-painting. It was by Mr. Walter Hann, whose art was certainly not surpassed by either author or actor. Still, the crowded audience was unmistakably engrossed in the piece, which, dealing with theosophy and hypnotism,was bound to interest. “The Charlatan” certainly held each listener. Attention, aroused from the first, was not relaxed. Each act, even the last, left you curious to know what would happen next. The Charlatan is a dusky Indian adventurer, with the polished and easy manners of a  gentleman, having such a strong belief in his hypnotic power over a young English girl of high birth he is infatuated with that he wagers his confederate, a wily woman called Madame Obnoskin, snugly ensconced as guest at Wanborough Castle, that he will influence Isabel Arlington to gratify his passion. He is as good as his word. By evoking a spirit-portrait of the girl’s soldier-father, supposed to be dead in India, he confounds the host and guests of the Castle—all save the young Lord Dewsbury, who is in love with Isabel Arlington, and who visits him in the turret room to denounce him as the Charlatan that he is. This vigorous onslaught rouses Philip Woodville, the hypnotising adventurer, to fury. He waves his hands, and wills that Isabel shall visit him in the turret. This she does—only to awaken the man’s better self. He commands her to return to her chamber, and the next day quits the Castle—leaving the enamoured Isabel avowedly in love with him, since she has openly broken with Lord Dewsbury. It was a high tribute to the art of Mr. and Mrs. Tree that as “The Charlatan” and his victim they should have made such an improbable succession of episodes seem possible. Mr. and Mrs. Tree had never been seen to greater advantage in the histrionic sense. The Earl of Wanborough (Mr. Nutcombe Gould) was a too credulous believer in the Madame Blavatsky and Daniel Home types. The Lord Dewsbury of Mr. Fred. Terry was obviously an uncongenial part. The clear elocution of Miss Gertrude Kingston as Madame Obnoskin was a treat to the ear. Many thanks to Mr. Fred Kerr, Miss Lily hanbury, Mr. C. Allan, Mrs. E. H. Brooke, and Miss Irene Vanbrugh for the relief afforded by their capital characters sketches. An Oscar-Wilde kind of poseur, ever jotting down studied epigrams on his shirt cuff for future use, Mr. Kerr was full of dry humour, which elicited mirth. Actors and author were called, and Mr. Tree announced “The Talisman” as his next piece.

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The Sketch (31 January, 1894 - p.12)

     À propos of coincidence, I note the letter of Mr. Stuart Cumberland which appeared last week in the Pall Mall Gazette. Over two years ago he wrote a Theosophistic play, entitled “An Adept,” which he submitted to Mr. Tree; it was not produced. To-day Mr. Buchanan produces a Theosophistic play, entitled “The Charlatan,” at the Haymarket, which in plot bears, Mr. Cumberland says, a curious resemblance to his play, while some of the characters are identical. His charlatan was an Anglo-Parsee who had a hypnotic gift, and established an influence over his host’s niece; there was a séance, followed by a next-morning confession, and the charlatan of the Cumberland story, as in Mr. Buchanan’s, leaves a reformed man, to return another day to the lady he has deceived. It is an “extraordinary instance of thought-transference.”

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The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News (10 February, 1894 - p.24)

OUR CAPTIOUS CRITIC.

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Punch (10 February, 1894 - p.69)

THE HAYMARKET MYSTERY!

     THE ways of managers are inscrutable. The other day Mr. HARE accepted, presumably therefore approved of, and emphasized his approval by producing, and playing the leading part in, a play by Mr. SYDNEY GRUNDY entitled An Old Jew, which will now become another “Wandering Jew,” since it is highly probable that he will vainly seek rest for the sole of his foot on the boards of provincial, American or Colonial theatres. And here is Mr. BEERBOHM TREE approving, accepting, producing, and himself performing the title rôle in The Charlatan a sort of mesmeric-and-spiritualistic play, which nothing but the prestige, the earnestness, and the excellent acting of the principals could have possibly induced the public to accept. No act of prestidigitation which that most skilful conjuror Mr. BEERBOHM TREE may perform can equal this one great trick of “palming” this play off on the public as a finished work either of dramatic art or of literary excellence.

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     The idea seems to be a muddle, too, for The Charlatan discovers that he really is what he has been pretending to be; and then, in spite of the evidence of facts which contradict him flatly, he confesses that he is not what he has discovered he really is! Why, ’tis a plot that Lord Dundreary might have conceived, or that The Headless Man, had he turned his mighty intellect towards the Drama, might have concocted! If Philip Woodville be a Mesmeriser and Spiritualist, as he professes to be, then is her not a Charlatan. If Philip Woodville be only half of this, a Mesmeriser and not a Spiritualistic Medium, then he is only half a Charlatan; but at the same time, if undeniable facts have proved to him, in spite of himself, that he does possess just half of those very powers he has been pretending to wield, would he not at once reason to himself that, for aught he knew, he might indeed be able to “call spirits from the vasty deep,” if he only gave his mind to it? No; it seems that the sanguine dramatist had got hold of just one situation and a couple of characters; and then in answer to his own question, “What shall I do with them?” he fits up a skimpy sort of frame-work, which will hardly hold together, for “the picture of ‘We Three,’” the three being Philip the Charlatan, Madame Obnoskin (ye Gods, what a name!), and Isabel Arlington.
     Poor
Madame ob-no-skin! She is substantially represented in the flesh by Miss G
ERTRUDE KINGSTON, who plays the difficult part with considerable power; and it is not her fault if the part is not better, and if it does not offer those chances which, had the plot been well thought out and thoroughly developed, such a part ought to have afforded her. As it is, poor Madame Ob-all-flesh-and-no-skin, who has very little to do worth doing, and still less to say worth hearing, is a sort of female Cook in a firm of Real Spiritualistic Conjurors, Masculine and Cook, the senior partner in the firm being represented by Mr. BEERBOHM TREE, who, true to the MASKELYNE mission, finally comes out as an exposer of spiritualistic frauds. But how about the female confidante? What is she besides this? What have been the relations between these two? Is she jealous of him? Was it she who came “tapping” like the Raven at the door of the Charlatan’s “Turret-Room” when Isabel Arlington, having walked thither in her sleep, had to walk off again, uncommonly wide awake? It may have been: but she didn’t say so: at least, as Horatio says of the Ghost, “Not when I saw it.”

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     Mrs. TREE as Ophelia, afterwards Lady Macbeth, and finally La Sonnambula, or The Sleeper Awakened, three single ladies (Lady Macbeth wasn’t single, by the way, but “this is a detail”) rolled into one, is really admirable. One false step when asleep, one false note (and she sings with exquisite pathos) would have upset the entire piece. Mr. ROBERT BUCHANAN owes her more, perhaps, than he does to Mr. TREE for the success of the piece; for indubitably the success of The Charlatan is mainly due to these two.
     Mr. K
ERR is as good as the part will permit him to be, and so is Miss LILY HANBURY. Mr. CHARLES ALLAN is a much-married Dean to the life; and if Mr. HOLMAN CLARK did not just in one instance (where he surveys the Dean literally up and down, and only arrives at the conclusion that the subject of his inspection is an Anglican clergyman on seeing his knee-breeches) overdo the part of Professor Mumbles, he would be perfect.
     As the Author makes Lord Dewsbery more a cad than a gentleman, it would be hard to blame the actor for not making the character more gentlemanly than the Author intended him to be; still, Mr. F
RED. TERRY might have contrived to soften down the crude lines of Mr. BUCHANAN’S “fancy portrait” of a young gentleman “all of the modern time,” and thereby he would have improved on the original considerably.
     All told, this “
new play of modern life,” as Mr. BUCHANAN describes it (“Modern Life” of the time of WILKIE COLLIN’S Moonstone and of Mr. HOME’S spiritualism), will owe its success, as I have said before, to the excellence of the acting as framed in most artistically effective “sets” by Mr. W. HANN, one of which, The White Gallery, a legitimate effect of painting and arrangement, may be reckoned among the best “interiors” presented either here or on any other stage.
(Signed)                    T
HE B IN BOX.

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Glasgow Herald (19 February, 1894)

     Mr Beerbohm Tree on the 8th prox. proposes to do a smart piece of travelling. He will take the Haymarket company down to Birmingham in the morning, give an afternoon performance of “The Charlatan” there, and return to town in time to open at the Haymarket at eight o’clock in the evening. Assuming that the matinée is not over till five o’clock, this will give the company exactly three hours to get to the Birmingham Station, travel the 118 miles to Euston, drive to the Haymarket, dress, and appear on the stage. However, there will be a special train of dining cars, so that the artistes will be able to dine directly they leave Birmingham, and it is not unlikely that some of the dressing and making-up will likewise be done in the train.

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The Sketch (28 February, 1894 - p.24-25)

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The Theatre (1 March, 1894)

“THE CHARLATAN.”

A New Play of Modern Life, in four acts, by ROBERT BUCHANAN.
First produced at the Haymarket Theatre on Thursday Evening, January 18th, 1894.

Philip Woodville               ...    Mr. Tree.
The Earl of Wanborough   ...     Mr. Nutcombe Gould.
Lord Dewsbury                ...     Mr. Fred Terry.
The Hon. Mervyn Darrell  ...     Mr. Fredk. Kerr.
Mr. Darnley                    ...    Mr. C. Allan.
Professor Marrables        ...    Mr. Holman Clark.
Butler                               ...     Mr. Hay.

Footman                        ...    Mr. Montagu.
Lady Carlotta Deepdale ...    Miss Lily Hanbury.
Mrs. Darnley                   ...     Mrs. E. H. Brooke.
Olive Darnley                  ...     Miss I Vanbrugh.
Madame Obnoskin          ...     Miss G. Kingston.
Isabel Arlington               ...     Mrs. Tree.

     “Give me a good mystery: one as puzzles judge and jury, and pretty nigh ’angs the wrong man.” That was the special weakness of the parish clerk in “The Silver King”—the village Nestor who averred “The Psalms is one thing and the Daily Telegraph is another”—and the weakness of Mr. Binks (if the vogue of Mr. Sherlock Holmes means aught) is common to us all. Wise, therefore, with the wisdom of the serpent has Mr. Buchanan been to weave into his story of “The Charlatan” an impalpable web of mystery. Glamour and mystery, mystery and glamour—with these potent charms the magician playwright had worked, and with these on the first night he brought the vast majority of his audience under his spell.
     All is plain sailing at first. From the brisk rallies which ensue between Lady Carlotta Deepdale and the Hon. Mervyn Darrell, one divines merely that Theosophy has insinuated its bewildering and fascinating presence into the country seat of old Lord Wanborough, and that the tastes of the young cousins are the whole world apart. He lives the “higher life,” inhales with languid delight “the aroma of decay,” finds “the only enjoyment in life in the spasm of artistic agony which arises from social decay, out of which springs literature, which is life,” and is in brief an extremely egotistical, pessimistic and over-cultured young man. Lady Carlotta, on the other hand, is all spring and sunshine. She revels in “plum-pudding and Dickens,” is a “vulgar optimist,” irradiates the castle with her glorious beauty and sunny smile, and doubtless holds the championship medal of the Wanborough Golf Club. But the reach for plain sailing is soon traversed. With the entrance of Miss Arlington, the Earl’s ward, a note of mystery is struck.
     Miss Arlington is fragile, pallid, and intense. She lives in the clouds, has premonitions, and can feel no happiness in the loyal affection, handsome rent-roll, title, and political celebrity of Lord Dewsbury, her robustious fiancé. Moreover, she suffers from disturbing memories. One is of her father, an adventurous explorer in Thibet, good news of whom is now almost past praying for. The other is of a love passage in Calcutta years ago. Its nature is soon learned. While singing—very prettily and touchingly—in the glow of a saffron sunset, a visitor glides stealthily into the darkened room. It is her rejected Eurasian lover of long ago. He bears a different name, is now a shining light of the sham Theosophists, and is there to work out a vile revenge for her (not undeserved) past disdain.
     He knows that Colonel Arlington lives, and, to lure the impressionable girl into his net, proposes to use that knowledge in a startling way. With the help of a rather too obvious Russian adventuress, a famous Theosophist, also a guest of the Earl’s, a séance is given, during which a vision of the missing traveller is by a trick made to appear to sceptics and believers alike, immediately prior to the arrival of a telegram from the explorer himself announcing his safety and return. This cruel jugglery is merely the first step, however, in Philip Woodville’s scheme. Since Miss Arlington will not and cannot marry him, he resolves that she shall marry no one else. To this end he employs his hypnotic influence over her, as Joseph Balsamo used his over Lorenzo, in Dumas’s “Memoirs of a Physician.” From his quarters in the turret-room at dead of night he wills the poor girl to leave her bed and come to him. Obedient to the summons her white- robed figure glides along the terrace, and enters his room. In hypnotic sleep, again like Balsamo’s victim, she avows her love for Woodville. But her virginal presence calms his passion. Her avowal of love disarms him. His better nature is aroused, and he wakes her only to soothe her wild fears and confess his whole course of treachery and baseness. This confession, strong in his resolve to make amends, he repeats next morning to his host and fellow guests, as did Mr. H. A. Jones’s Judah before him. But his ignominious departure for his native land does not take place before Miss Arlington has let him know that his remorse and atonement have brought her “happiness, not sorrow,” and that eagerly she will look for his return when the new life just begun has completely effaced the old.
     The one obvious criticism to pass is that “The Charlatan” is no charlatan. Moreover, if he can by an exercise of will throw a girl into an hypnotic sleep and in that state compel her to traverse a terrace, enter a stranger’s room, and reveal the close-locked secrets of her heart, he can surely induce his “subject” to receive a “brain-impression” of the person engrossing her thoughts. But apart from this contradiction, Woodville’s character is so interestingly drawn, and above all this hypnotic Hindoo is so superbly played by Mr. Tree, that no amount of criticism of this kind can diminish the effect of the piece. Full of “picture,” glowing with colour, the drama is an admirable composition of memorable scenes, and in the hands of other actors would no doubt be impressive enough. But Mr. Tree, most cleverly assisted by Mrs. Tree, makes far more of it than that. The romantic glamour they cast over the well-poised, skilfully-contrasted central figures is a very triumph of imagination and skill. Their handling of the third act—the dangerous scene of the sleepwalking and Woodville’s startling volte-face—is quite masterly. On the one hand the suggestion of turbulent passion beneath an almost unruffled exterior, the throes of moral anguish, the bitterness of the man’s voluntary humiliation; on the other, the impression of girlish innocence, of childlike fear, of touching indifference to her own peril in the face of her lover’s shame, could hardly have been more simply or more powerfully conveyed. Indeed, Mr. Tree’s impassive, dignified Oriental, sparing of gesture but lavish of facial play, commanding in manner and look, sallow and sleek, with raven hair, and strange lustrous eyes, must rank with the most striking creations which even he has accomplished.
     Honours yet remain for division among the minor players, or rather players of minor parts, despite the brilliant and overshadowing success of Mr. and Mrs. Tree. Mr. Fred Kerr shows us a half-fledged Juxon Prall in the intellectual fop Mervyn Darrell, and his diverting work in “Judah” is the measure of his success and drollery here. The beautiful Lady Carlotta requires only a girl with beauty and a cheery manner, which are quite the least important qualifications possessed by clever Miss Lily Hanbury. Mr. Nutcombe Gould presents another courtly old peer, and sets an example in bearing and manner by following which the boorish Lord Dewsbury of Mr. Fred Terry—never at home in these modern plays of restrained passion and unobtrusive feeling—would become more acceptable. There is an excellent little study of character by Mr. Holman Clark of Professor Marrables, a scientist “too old to have formed any opinions,” and very hazy about the existence of the soul, of which he “has not verified the fact.” And with pretty Miss Irene Vanbrugh as a sweet girl graduate addicted to Paracelsus and snubbing her mother, and Mr. Charles Allan as a trimming, time-serving dean, the cast is complete. The play was received with great warmth, as well it might be, for though Mr. Buchanan’s social satire may not strike very deep, it furnishes a highly effective background for a picturesque drama of emotion and intrigue, and provides Mr. and Mrs. Tree with characters in which they play with exquisite art and extraordinary effect.

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The Birmingham Daily Post (2 March, 1894 - p.4)

     THEATRE ROYAL.—A special matinée is announced for Thursday next, when Mr. Tree and his entire company, now playing at the Theatre Royal, Haymarket, will appear here in Mr. Robert Buchanan’s successful drama, “The Charlatan,” for the first time in Birmingham. The company, we understand, will return to London by special train the same afternoon, in time for the evening performance at the Haymarket.

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The Birmingham Daily Post (9 March, 1894)

“THE CHARLATAN” AT THE THEATRE ROYAL.
_____

VISIT OF THE HAYMARKET COMPANY.

     In local theatrical records yesterday afternoon’s performance at the Theatre Royal may fairly be said to have opened a new chapter. It is true that some time ago, while one of the pantomimes was running at the Prince of Wales Theatre, a London company came down to give a special mid-day representation of Mr. Fred Horner’s adapted three-act farce, “The Bungalow”; but this is the first occasion on which a company so distinguished as that banded together by the enthusiastic and enterprising Mr. Tree has journeyed here to give an absolutely complete performance of an important play yet running at one of the leading London theatres—returning at its conclusion to repeat it on London boards. We shall await the result of this bold experiment with much curiosity. If it proves remunerative both to London and Birmingham managers—if the fatigue of the two performances and the double journey does not unduly exhaust actors and actresses—if there is no hitch in the necessarily special railway arrangements—and if such fugitive appearances do not seem likely to discount the popularity of the longer visits that the leading stage favourites usually pay us in the autumn—then we may expect to see Birmingham placed on the same footing as Brighton, and to have the latest London successes brought to our doors by their original representatives within a few days of their town production. Mr. Beerbohm Tree has courageously led the way, and if—as we sincerely hope he may do—he meets with his double reward (the reward artistic, and the reward financial) many other London managers will be glad to follow his lead. Both he and Mr. Dornton are to be thanked for the spirited manner in which they have pioneered this costly trial trip. Judging from the absolutely packed state of the house all should be well. By an almost overcrowded audience both play and players were enthusiastically received; and Mr. Tree must have returned to London well content with the outcome of his venture. Unfortunately, “The Charlatan” cannot be described as a satisfactory play. No doubt the much-discussed subject of Theosophy offered abundant temptation to the prolific pen of Mr. Robert Buchanan, and inasmuch as he has contrived to hang an air of mystery about his plot that is by no means without its fascination, he has succeeded; some of his characters, too, are well drawn, but there praise must end. Badly acted, “The Charlatan,” overladen as it is with prosy talk, would prove wofully uninteresting; magnificently handled as it was yesterday by Mr. and Mrs. Tree, and their clever comrades, it answered its purpose, and evidently gave abundant enjoyment. Briefly told, the story is as follows: The old Earl of Wanborough is a dabbler in theosophy and spiritualism, and into his ancestral home an unscrupulous adventuress in these arts, Madame Obnoskin, has been taken as a friend. Here, too, we find his pretty daughter, the Lady Charlotta; Lord Dewsbury, a rising politician; the Hon. Mervyn Darrell, a young gentleman full of the newest of the new culture, who thinks music is as horrible as plum-pudding, and calls Dickens a vulgar optimist; and Isabel Arlington, an interesting and pretty, but terribly nervous and impressionable girl, whose father (Lord Wanborough’s intimate friend) is supposed to have been killed during his adventurous travels in Thibet. During a stay in Calcutta Isabel had a lover whom she would willingly forget, but presently, to her dismay, he appears upon the scene. Philip Woodville, as he calls himself, is an avowed spiritualist. He calls theosophy his religion, but it is soon manifest that he is in league with Madame Obnoskin, and that it is his trade. It is also clear that the object of his coming to England is to find out Isabel, and, in spite of many difficulties, claim her for his own. Accordingly he proceeds to practise upon her too nervous nature. During a séance, in which the merest trickery is practised, he conjures up the supposed spirit of her father at the precise moment that a telegram announcing that he is alive and on his way home is received; and so great is his influence upon her that at night, in accordance with his expectations, she, in her sleep, walks over the battlements into the turret chamber that has been set aside for him, and so places herself absolutely in his power. But at the last moment the real good that is in the man comes out. He scorns to take advantage of his ill-gotten success, and, waking her, he tells her that he is a mere impostor, promises to leave the country, and, unharmed, permits her to return to the security of her own room. But the sharp eyes of Madame Obnoskin have witnessed this compromising midnight adventure; for her own purposes she spreads the scandal; and in the last act dire consequences ensue. This is the most unsatisfactory part of the play. The engagement between Lord Dewsbury and Isabel is broken off, and Woodville behaves so manfully that Isabel frankly declares her renewed love for him; and yet at the end he goes away, to return or not no one knows. It is neither an unhappy nor a happy ending; it is simply no ending at all. In this brief summing up we have been unable to describe the undeniably striking situations that occur in the course of the play’s action, but we certainly do not think “The Charlatan” will take lasting hold on the public. All round the acting was superb, but the honours were carried off by Mrs. Tree. Her acting in the difficult sleep-walking scene was tragic in its intensity, and yet so well subdued that it never seemed unnatural. Grace and winsomeness distinguished her in the lighter portions of the play, and the tenderness of her love avowal could not be excelled.
     As Woodville, Mr. Tree had really no great chances, but he played throughout with the skill of a great artist. His make-up and deportment were things for the ambitious amateur to ponder on and study. Mr. Nutcombe Gould gave us another of his wonderfully-finished portraits of aristocratic old gentlemen; Mr. Fred Kerr (his part by the way was remarkably like the one he took in “Judah”) was perfect as the sententious young gentleman; Mr. Fred Terry was easy and impressive as the downright Lord Dewsbury; Miss Lily Hanbury was delightful as Lady Charlotta; Miss Gertrude Kingston powerful as Madame Obnoskin; and other parts were admirably rendered by Mr. C. Allan, Mr. Holman Clark, Mrs. E. H. Brooke, and Miss Irene Vanbrugh. From an acting point of view nothing better than this representation of “The Charlatan” has been seen on local boards. In response to an enthusiastic call Mr. Tree made a little speech, in the course of which he gave the welcome news that he and his company will revisit us in the autumn.

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The Morning Post (9 March, 1894 - p.5)

     “THE CHARLATANAT BIRMINGHAM.—Mr. Tree and the entire Haymarket Company appeared yesterday afternoon at the Theatre Royal, Birmingham, to the largest matinée audience that has ever been known there, in Mr. Robert Buchanan’s play “The Charlatan.” The company returned to Euston by special train.

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The Gloucester Citizen (9 March, 1894 - p.4)

     Mr. Beerbohm Tree and the entire Haymarket company appeared on Thursday afternoon at the Theatre Royal, Birmingham, before the largest matinée audience that has ever been known there, in Mr. Robert Buchanan’s play “The Charlatan.” The company returned to Euston by special train, accomplishing the journey in two hours and eighteen minutes, which is the shortest time in which the distance has ever been covered.

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Freeman’s Journal and Daily Commercial Advertiser (Dublin) (9 March, 1894)

     MR. BEERBOHM TREE.—Mr Beerbohm Tree’s Haymarket Company paid a flying visit to Birmingham yesterday, and gave a matinee of “The Charlatan” at the Theatre Royal, returning by special train to London in the evening. The company had a magnificent reception, and, when called before the curtain, Mr. Tree made a brief speech, in which he said Birmingham, with its well-known goaheadedness, might some day establish a municipal theatre, and then London would follow suit. It had long been the yearning of English actors to have a theatre under State support, as existed in every large Continental town.

charllsat02

[Advert for the last night of The Charlatan at the Haymarket from The Times (17 March, 1894 - p.14).]

 

Aberdeen Weekly Journal (17 July, 1894)

HER MAJESTY’S THEATRE.
_____

MR ROBERT BUCHANAN’S “CHARLATAN.”

     It is a compliment which Aberdeen playgoers should appreciate that the first performance of “The Charlatan,” one of the cleverest pieces of satire that ever came from the pen of Mr Buchanan, should have been performed for the first time out of London in the Granite City. The piece was first produced at the Haymarket Theatre, London, and even such a caustic critic as Mr Clement Scott, between whom and the author a somewhat violent newspaper war took place recently, acknowledged that the play contained original features of a most striking character. “The Charlatan” can scarcely be described as a drama with a moral, but it is a play which cannot fail to attract all who have given even a casual attention to the controversy which followed the ’verting of Mrs Annie Besant to the Mahatma cult. To use a commonplace expression, the play is a very cleverly-conceived “skit” on the hypnotic-cum-seance-cum-Mahatma business, and with the introduction of the necessary love scenes, without which no modern play could be complete, a drama of a most novel character is evolved. Very little idea of the play would be extracted from a formal description of how the incidents hang together. It is a play to be seen, not merely to be read about, and a few lines as to the principal characters introduced is all that is requisite. Philip Woodville (played with striking success by Mr Arthur Bearne) is the Charlatan, who manages to get introduced into the Earl of Wanborough’s circle, a sort of recluse, who in his old age has given himself up to the study of the occult sciences, with the inevitable result that he falls an easy prey not only to female blandishments, but to any charlatan who may chose to assume a special knowledge of what may or may not be a legitimate branch of study in the hidden mystery line. This character is without exaggeration drawn with a master hand, and Mr Walter Russell gives it a highly intelligent interpretation. To come to the female characters, one is almost inclined to think that Mr Buchanan must have had special individuals in his mind—the individuality is so marked and distinct— when he drafted the characters of Madame Obnoskin and Isabel Arlington. The one is a well-limned type of the female confederate—real or imagined, while the other presents an excellent idea of a victim of impressionist fads. Madame Obnoskin is as strong in her knowledge of how to fool those who are subject to be fooled, as Isabel is as weak in yielding to wills stronger than her own. Miss Lilian Lomard has a most difficult part to play as Isabel. She has to give evidence of a weak, yielding nature, and in doing so she has to assume a most subdued style, which at a first impression might seem to indicate a sign of weakness, but in reality it turns out to be the strength of the character she pourtrays. As Madame Obnoskin, Miss Leah Marlborough has a much more forcible specimen of the “weaker” sex to delineate, and the highest compliment that can be paid to this capable actress is that she does not overdo a part that could with very trifling exertion be overdone. Running alongside the hypnotic element are the love affairs of a theosophist and a sprightly young lady, who takes a common-sense view of the matrimonial state, and as an offset to the spiritualistic part of the business, it is worked in with effect. Miss Brennard gives a piquant rendering of Lady Carlotta Deepdale, and for quiet, effective acting, Mr Bedells gives a capital representation of the Hon. Mervyn Darrell. Mr Richard Brennard who, as Lord Dewsbury, has to unmask the imposture of the Charlatan, acts with a commendable amount of reserved strength. The part of the Dean of Wanborough by Mr Frederick Knight, and Professor Marrables (a very much diluted edition of the man of science) by Mr Dudley Clinton are exceedingly well personated, and it only remains to be added that for balance in all the parts it is seldom that such a company is seen in Aberdeen. The play is staged with a degree of excellence seldom to be seen so far north, and although last night’s performance was a trifle marred by the somewhat too effusive demonstrations of the upper parts of the house, it can honestly be said that “The Charlatan,” one of the later productions of our somewhat erratic countryman, Robert Buchanan, is a play of such high excellence that no one who can relish something very much above the common level should miss seeing.

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The Dundee Evening Telegraph (24 July, 1894 - p.2)

HER MAJESTY’S THEATRE.
“THE CHARLATAN.”

     Dundee playgoers ought to be grateful to Mr Arthur for bringing to Her Majesty’s Theatre so soon after its production at the London Haymarket Theatre Mr Robert Buchanan’s much-talked-of play “The Charlatan.” The drama is a keen satire of the modern Theosophite cult, and the theme of hypnotic influence is also introduced and used with powerful effect. Through much scope is given for philosophic and didactic speeches, Mr Buchanan never forgets the dramatic, and the play as a play holds the interest, apart altogether from the unique occult, and, sometimes, weird manifestations. Philip Woodville, an adventurer dabbling in spiritualism and mesmerism, acquires an influence over Isabel Arlington, a niece and ward of the Earl of Wanborough. They first meet in India, but Isabel leaves for England. Philip follows her, and by introducing a Russian theosophical adventuress—Mdme. Obnoskin—succeeds in gaining an invitation to Wanborough Castle. At the desire of her uncle, Isabel has become engaged to a Lord Dewsbury, but on the arrival of Woodville she again becomes subject to his influence. There is some wrangling between Lord Dewsbury and Woodville, and the nobleman having aroused the anger of the Charlatan causes him to determine to ruin Isabel. A thrilling scene ensues in which Woodville uses his hypnotic influence over Isabel to cause her to leave her room and come to his. The girl in a somnambulistic state obeys, but the Charlatan, touched by her helplessness and innocence, relents, and awakening her confesses his real character. Madame Obnoskin, who has watched the adventure, discloses the story to the Earl and Lord Dewsbury; the latter, inflamed by jealousy, at once discards Isabel, who is claimed by the reformed and now chivalrous Charlatan. Such in brief is the story, but it is interwoven and worked out with consummate art, and the various characters are drawn with a master hand. Mr Arthur Bearne acted the curiously complicated part of the Charlatan with singular ability. The adventurer is withal the gentleman, and impresses his companions and the audience by the incisive forcefulness of his personality. Miss Lilian Loriard is wondrously effective as Isabel. The quiet, self-possessed mannerism of the girl troubled about her father, and weighted with the burden of the conflicting claims of Woodville and Dewsbury, is a most artistic characterisation. Mr Walter Russell has before this won applause in Dundee for his personation of an Earl, and last night he acted the Earl of Wanborough as if to the manner born. Mr Richard Brennand is a manly and likeable Lord Dewsbury, Mr Charles B. Bedells a clever development of the scientific dilettante Mervyn Darrell. Mr Frederick Knight is so excellent a Dean that there is disappointment so little is heard from him, and professor Marrables, a caricature of a man of science, is cleverly accounted for by Mr Dudley Clinton. Miss Leah Marlborough gives a striking portrait of Madame Obnoskin, and Mrs and Miss Darnley are cleverly characterised by Miss Louie Tinsley and Miss Edie Farquhar, Lady Charlotte Deepdale being played by Miss Lillian Brennand with captivating spirit. The scenes are laid at Wanborough Castle, and are remarkably effective. The original comedietta “Tom,” by Mr H. E. Dalroy and Mr Arthur Bearne is played as a curtain-raiser. The audience was keenly interested in last night’s performance, and the applause, which was not stinted, culminated in quite an ovation to the principals at the close of the third act. The musical programme is of holiday tone and sparkle, and wins special commendation.

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The Liverpool Mercury (4 December, 1894 - p.6)

THE THEATRES.
_____

     It is surprising that a manager of the astuteness of Mr. Beerbohm Tree, who is an actor as well, and more surprising still than an author of the directness and virility of Mr. Robert Buchanan should have put their names to such a piece as “The Charlatan.” After its first performance in this city at the Royal Court Theatre last evening one was inclined to look upon it as having been devised in a hurry to stop a gap in the Haymarket succession, for it presents many of the symptoms which belong to pictures which are hastily painted. Nor was the audience without this way of thinking. More than one of the situations of “The Charlatan” come perilously close to a precipice of ridicule. There is a saving feature, and this is Mr. Buchanan’s overthrow of a particular form of imposture, but even then the inclination is to ask why the stage should be used for this specific purpose. Let us, instead, have human nature in its various aspects. “The Charlatan” satisfies neither in construction nor in dialogue. In the former connection the whole story is surrendered at the outset, and in the latter, with few exceptions, there is but small trace of Mr. Buchanan’s admitted literary force. The central figure of “The Charlatan,” the arch-imposter himself, is enacted by Mr. Arthur Bearne somewhat monotonously, but with a touch of intention, and very clever indeed are the pointed sketches of Earl of Wamborough by Mr. Walter Russell, Dr. Darnley by Mr. Frederick Knight, and Professor Marrables by Mr. Dudley Clinton. Miss Lilian Loriard plays Isabel Arlington; Miss Louie Tinsley, Mrs. Darnley; Miss Leah Marlborough, Madame Obnoskin; Mr. Charles Bedells, Mervyn Darrell; and Mr. Richard Brennand, Lord Dewsbury. “The Charlatan” is to be repeated every evening this week.

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From Herbert Beerbohm Tree: Some Memories of Him and of His Art collected by Max Beerbohm (London: Hutchinson & Co., 1920), from the section, ‘Herbert and I’ by Maud Tree, p.84:

     The year closed somewhat gloomily: for The Tempter, in spite of its success, was too expensive and over-peopled a production to spell money-making. It ended, and a short revival of Captain Swift filled in the few weeks while Herbert was rehearsing The Charlatan by Robert Buchanan. This, a pretty enough play, gave Herbert a part, eerie, poetic, half- villain, half-hero, such as only an Irving or a Tree could enact. It recalled several of his brilliant successes: Macari, the Duke of Guisebury, Captain Swift and Hamlet; being compounded of, and yet distinctive from them all; the kind of performance which in a highly-successful play would have become historic. I was given the wonderful part of the heroine, and was allowed to sing “Der Asra” of Rubinstein to Lily Hanbury’s accompaniment (how did I dare?). It was appropriate to the situation and to the characters. Isabel (my part) was the Princess, Philip Woodville (Herbert’s) the slave—who daily grew pale and more pale for love of her. There were the elements but not the accomplishment of a fine drama in The Charlatan.

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The Charlatan v. The Wonder-Worker

Buchanan was accused of plagiarism with regard to his play, The Charlatan, principally by Stuart  Cumberland. The following items include a review of Mr. Cumberland’s day job, letters from the Pall Mall Gazette, and a review of The Wonder-Worker, by Stuart Cumberland. More information about Stuart Cumberland is available on the Society for Psychical Research site and the Internet Archive has his 1888 book, A Thought-Reader’s Thoughts.

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Aberdeen Weekly Journal (18 January, 1894)

MR STUART CUMBERLAND AND MISS
BENTLEY IN ABERDEEN.
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     Mr Stuart Cumberland, the world-famous thought-reader, and his scarcely less well-known niece, Miss Phyllis Bentley, yesterday gave two entertainments in the Music Hall Buildings, Aberdeen. The reputation which Mr Cumberland had gained for himself on the occasion of his previous visit to the Granite City was in itself sufficient to guarantee that there would be a large gathering at the entertainment, but when there was added to this the attraction of Miss Phyllis Bentley, who has of late been mystifying and at the same time delighting the crowned heads of Europe by her wonderful performances, it would have been surprising had there not been a crowded attendance. At the afternoon performance, which was given in the Ballroom, there was not a vacant seat. The feats both of Mr Cumberland and Miss Bentley, although widely different in character, were alike in the manner in which they bewildered and yet delighted all present. Many were the theories which were held as to the manner in which the feats were performed. One section of the audience seemed to think they were nothing less than “second sight”; others looked on them as merely clever tricks; while others, even more sceptical, attributed Mr Cumberland’s success to collusion. This last theory, however, was absolutely precluded by the appointment of a committee of ten well-known gentlemen selected from the audience, presided over by Captain Brook and including a clergyman. Perhaps the best way to give some idea of the nature of Mr Cumberland’s feats will be to give a plain unvarnished account of a few of them. Mr Cumberland at the outset explained his mode of procedure, and said all he asked was that the person being experimented with should think clearly, distinctly, and honestly. He could not make any person think if he couldn’t; nor could he do so if they wouldn’t. The first experiment was as follows — A member of the committee was asked to think of a particular lady to whom Mr Cumberland should present a flower in a particular way. Mr Cumberland, who had meanwhile been blindfolded, then laid the tips of his fingers on the wrist of the “medium,” whom he led through the hall. For a few minutes he wandered fruitlessly among the seats, sometimes going near the centre of the hall, returning to the front, going back to the centre, and so on, until at length he selected a lady sitting in the front row of seats to whom with a graceful bow he presented the flowers. This proved to be the lady on whom the gentleman had thought. Explaining by the way that this experiment was the mere A B C of the thought-reading art, Mr Cumberland next asked a member of the committee to think of a picture. This having been done Mr Cumberland, with the medium’s finger tips resting on his hand, drew on a blackboard an outline portrait of Mr Gladstone, which, although very crude, was quite recognisable, and proved to be very similar to the portrait which the member subsequently drew on the board. The next drawing thought of was a steeple, and although in this case the result was scarcely so satisfactory, the main idea was produced with fair accuracy. Figure-writing was the subject of the next experiment. The number of a bank-note belonging to a member of the committee was thought on by the chairman and written on the board by Mr Cumberland. The next experiment, which caused considerable astonishment, and, when completed, excited loud applause, was performed through a lady medium. Mr Cumberland approached a lady sitting near the front of the hall, and after overcoming the proverbial difficulty of finding her pocket, abstracted therefrom a scent bottle, which he presented to another lady sitting some distance off—all as the medium had desired. The concluding feat was of an amusingly grotesque character. Mr Cumberland, accompanied by the chairman, having retired from the room, a member of the committee selected a gentleman from the back of the hall, took him to the platform, and then in melo-dramatic fashion pretended to cut his throat from ear to ear with a large pocket-knife. Not content with this, the executioner caused his victim to kneel on the platform, and, with a chair serving him as a block, chopped off his head with an imaginary axe. The murdered man then resumed his seat amid considerable laughter. Mr Cumberland on re-entering the room was blindfolded. he then walked without hesitation to the back of the hall, selected the “victim,” marched him back to the platform, and imitated exactly the manner in which he had previously been executed.
     No less wonderful was the performance of Miss Bentley, who was then introduced to the audience. The effect of the feats which she performed was heightened by the cool and easy manner in which she performed them. Even the most difficult were carried out with apparently as much ease as those which, comparatively speaking, were simpler. Holding a billiard cue in diagonal fashion, she invited members of the committee to endeavour to push it to the ground. Several of them struggled might and main to do so, but even although two tried it at one time Miss Bentley defied all their efforts with a quiet smile of triumph at their discomfiture. Baillie McKenzie, who was seated among the audience, on the invitation of Mr Cumberland endeavoured to push the cue to the ground, but he, too, had to retire beaten. In the same way, Miss Bentley, holding the cue horizontally, and standing on one foot, was able to withstand the efforts of the committee to push her backwards. The various members of committee put forth their utmost strength, and, to judge from the athletic appearance of several of them, that was not a little. So much for what may be called Miss Bentley’s passive feats. To turn to her marvellous exhibition of lifting powers. Three members of the committee placed both hands on the top of the billiard cue, and seated above all was a member of the committee. Each exerted his utmost power to keep the cue on the ground, but Miss Bentley, by what appeared to be simply placing her hands on the cue, lifted it several inches from the ground. Then four members of committee were seated on a large, high-backed, and substantial-looking chair. Miss Bentley placed the palms of her hands on the back of the chair, and lifted it clear off the stage. To make the feat even more wonderful, Miss Bentley repeated it while members of the committee placed their hands between hers and the chair. The gentlemen afterwards stated that they felt no pressure on their hands. Miss Bentley’s performance was watched with great interest, and the applause which followed her feats was loud and frequent. Mr Cumberland having thanked the members of committee, the proceedings terminated.
     The entertainment was repeated in the Music Hall in the evening. Again there was a crowded attendance, and the performance was, if possible, even more successful. The principal experiments were repeated, and a number of new and interesting features were introduced. Baillie Edwards was chairman of the committee.

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The Pall Mall Gazette (23 January, 1894 - p.3)

THOUGHT TRANSFERENCE EXTRAORDINARY.

To the EDITOR of the PALL MALL GAZETTE.

     SIR,—A really extraordinary instance of “thought transference” has come to pass. Over two years ago I wrote a Theosophistic play, entitled, “An Adept,” which I submitted to Mr. Tree; it was not produced. To-day Mr. Buchanan produces a Theosophistic play entitled “The Charlatan,” at the Haymarket, which in plot bears a curious resemblance to my play, whilst some of the characters are almost identical. My charlatan was an Anglo-Parsee; he had a hypnotic gift, and established an influence over his host’s niece; there was a séance, followed by a next-morning confession, and the charlatan of my story, as in Mr. Buchanan’s, leaves a reformed man, to return another day to the lady he has deceived. It is all such an extraordinary instance of thought-transference that I shall be glad of any light that can be thrown upon it.— Your obedient servant,
     Station Hotel, Inverness, Jan. 21.                    STUART C. CUMBERLAND.

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The Pall Mall Gazette (24 January, 1894 - p.3)

“THE CHARLATAN.”

To the EDITOR of the PALL MALL GAZETTE.

     SIR,—My attention has been directed to a letter in your issue of this evening, in which Mr. Stuart Cumberland states that he submitted to Mr. Tree, over two years ago, a play very similar in plot to “The Charlatan,” now running at the Haymarket Theatre. I can truthfully say that Mr. Tree has never mentioned any such play to me, and that he first became acquainted with “The Charlatan” some six weeks before its production. The manuscript of my first three acts was in existence nearly two years ago, when it was read by me to Mr. George Alexander, of the St. James’s Theatre. Mr. Alexander no doubt remembers the fact, and can, if necessary, substantiate my statement. Of Mr. Cumberland’s play I, of course, know nothing.
—I am, &c.,
             ROBERT BUCHANAN.
Prince of Wales’s Club, Coventry-street, W., Jan. 23.

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To the EDITOR of the PALL MALL GAZETTE.

     SIR,—I notice in this evening’s issue of your paper a letter from Mr. Stuart C. Cumberland referring to the curious resemblance of his play, “An Adept,” to Mr. Buchanan’s “The Charlatan.” May I be allowed to add my cry to the list?
     On Tuesday, December 19, 1893, at St. George’s Hall, I produced a four-act play entitled “An Unpaid Debt,” in which I treated the subject of hypnotism, and in which exactly the same scene occurred—that of a woman being brought from one room to another by the power of hypnotism. I wrote my play three years ago, and it has been read and criticised by Mr. Kendal, Mr. F. H. Macklin, Mr. John Lart, and Miss Geneviève Ward, and is now in the hands of Mr. Willard in America. I merely mention these facts, as some of the dramatic critics have described Mr. Buchanan’s play as being strikingly original.—Yours truly,
     14, Mortimer-crescent, N.W., Jan. 23.                  CHARLES H. DICKINSON.

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The Stage (7 June, 1894 - p.14)

‘THE WONDER-WORKER.’

     On Friday, June 1, 1894, was produced at the Royal, Margate, a new and original play, in three acts, by Stuart Cumberland, entitled:—

The Wonder-Worker.

Asa                      ... ... ... ...     Mr. Berte Thomas
Alexander Walton         ... ...     Mr. Metcalfe Wood
Edward Walton            ... ...     Mr. Cosmo Stuart
General Hiram P. Walker ...    Mr. J. Denis Coyne
Robert Doncaster       ... ...    Mr. Temple G. Stamm
Benjamin Nathan        ... ...    Mr. William J. Miller
Evelyn Walton            ... ...    Miss Evelyn Neillda
Mrs. Moxon               ... ...    Miss Ethel Christian
Rose Moxon               ... ...     Miss Louise Cove
Jenkins                        ... ...     Miss Travers

     Though now produced for the first time, this play was written some three years ago, and it may be remembered that when Robert Buchanan’s play, The Charlatan, was produced at the Haymarket in January, a discussion took place between the two authors with regard to certain alleged similarities of plot, situations, and dialogue.
     The plot is well defined and unencumbered by side issues. Asa, a young student of mysticism and an “adept,” has been discovered in Bombay, in a destitute condition, by one General Hiram P. Walker, an American company promoter and theosophist, who, seeing an opportunity of using the magnetic powers possessed by Asa for financial purposes, renders him assistance, and concludes an alliance by which Asa undertakes to further the General’s financial schemes. The whole of the action takes place in the drawing-room of Mr. Alexander Walton’s residence in Grosvenor-square. Mr. Walton is a London financier, into whose family circle, Asa, who adds to his magnetic gifts and agreeable person, has been introduced by the General and his associate, Benjamin Nathan, editor of the Financial Slasher. The family circle consists of Walton’s daughter Evelyn (in love with Asa); his sister, Mrs. Moxon; his niece, Rose Moxon, and his son Edward. The last-named, seeing with anger the dangerous influence which Asa has over his father and sister, denounces him as an impostor, and desires him to leave the house. For a moment Asa is inclined to relinquish the dishonourable part he is playing and retire, but his love for Evelyn has grown too strong, and after some soliloquised self- reproaches and rending of soul, he decides to compromise by breaking with the General and leaving his fate in the hands of the ladies. He announces to them that he intends to leave them for ever, and, as he anticipated, they beg him to remain, and the curtain falls on Asa triumphant, Edward baffled. Act two opens with a conversation, which does not materially advance the plot, between Mrs. Moxon and her daughter Rose, whom she reproaches with materialism, in that she prefers “Ouida” to wonder-working. Their exit is followed by an interview, in which there is some smart dialogue, between Asa and the General, to whom he announces his intention of retiring from the partnership, of which Benjamin Nathan has become an active member, from conscientious motives; but learning that Miss Walton’s fortune has been invested by her father in a certain gold mining company which he controls, and out of the manipulation of which the confederates hope to make profit by obtaining information by means of Asa’s magnetic influence over Walton, Asa temporises, and does not openly break with his partners, thinking that his power over the father may enable him to serve their interests. Their departure is followed by the entrance of Walton with a telegram from the mine, announcing that it is played out. Walton, much perturbed, decides not to take advantage of his early information to save his own and his daughter’s money. Asa enters, and perceiving Walton’s distraction, and that the telegram is from the mine, decides to learn its contents by hypnotising him, and to compel him to save Evelyn’s money, notwithstanding that the professor, Dr. Doncaster, has warned him that Walton’s heart is affected. Walton is hypnotised, Asa learns the particulars of Evelyn’s investment, and causes Walton to write instructions to his brokers to sell her shares. This done, Walton falls back in his chair. Asa, unable to restore him, cries, “My God, he is dead!” and the curtain falls on an effective and dramatic situation. In the third act there is a very good scene between Evelyn and Asa, in which he confesses his imposture, and she confesses her love. It transpires that Walton is not dead. He fainted, but recovered; and when it also transpires that Asa’s motive was not the despicable one of personal profit, but the highly commendable one of saving Evelyn’s fortune, he is forgiven everything by everybody, including Edward.
     The play, which was produced at this theatre for copyright purposes, is perhaps more suited to a London than a provincial audience; but, nevertheless, it obtained a very favourable reception, and at the conclusion the author was called. Asa is not an impossibility; he is merely a man of strong magnetic nature, capable of exercising hypnotic powers over weaker natures, who facilitate his control by belief in his powers, and who is tempted into increasing his influence by trickery. The character gives opportunity for powerful acting. The Colonel is also a part which requires to be in strong hands, for, with the exception of Evelyn, the remaining parts are more or less subordinate. The characterisation is lucid, and perhaps the weak part of the play is its somewhat tame ending.
     Mr. Berte Thomas, who appeared by permission of Mr. Beerbohm Tree, by his strong personality and his fine voice and presence somewhat overshadowed the other performers, though great praise is due to Mr. J. Denis Coyne for his very able performance as General Hiram P. Walker, and also to Miss Evelyn Neillda, who imparted much charm to the character of Evelyn Moxon. Mr. Metcalfe Wood as Alexander Walton showed real ability, and Mr. Temple G. Stamm as the elderly savant displayed good powers of characterisation. Mr. Cosmo Stuart and Mr. W. J. Miller were clever as Edward Walton and the editor of the Financial Slasher respectively, and Miss Louise Cove played prettily as Rose Moxon. Miss Ethel Christian was a satisfactory Mrs. Moxon, Miss Travers was an efficient Jenkins, and, considering that the piece had been in rehearsal only six days, the whole Co. deserve great credit for the finished character of the performance.

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The World (New York) (8 July, 1894 - p.21)

THE STAGE ABROAD.
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     “The Wonder Worker,” Stuart Cumberland’s play, from which, he alleges, Robert Buchanan secured his inspiration for “The Charlatan,” was recently acted for copyright purposes at Margate. The play was well received, and in idea is not unlike the piece Beerbohm Tree produced earlier in the season at the Haymarket.

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The Daily Mail and Empire (20 July, 1895 - p.10)

     Mr. George Alexander will shortly produce a psychological problem in one act, entitled “A Question of Conscience,” by Mr. Stuart Cumberland. It is quite a new departure, and will doubtless furnish material for reflections and controversy. Mr. Cumberland, who left England a fortnight ago, to attend to the production of his drama, “The Wonder Worker,” in Berlin, in which the famous actor Hon. Josef Kainz sustains the leading role, has just finished a new romantic play in four acts for Mr. E. S. Willard, who is anxious to encourage new writers for the stage.

[Back to The Charlatan]

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