ROBERT WILLIAMS BUCHANAN (1841 - 1901)

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“Lady Gladys” - additional material

 

The Daily Telegraph (21 November, 1890 - p.2)

ACTION AGAINST MRS. LANGTRY.

     In the Queen’s Bench Division of the High Court of Justice, yesterday, Mr. Justice Charles and a special jury had before them the case of Buchanan v. Langtry. The action was brought by Mr. Robert Buchanan, the dramatist, against Mrs. Lillie Langtry, the actress, for the recovery of £2,000 damages in respect of an alleged breach of contract to open her season in New York, 1889, with a new modern drama, of which the plaintiff was the author, entitled “Lady Gladys,” whereby he had sustained loss of the reputation which he might otherwise have made by the production of the piece in America and elsewhere. Mrs. Langtry, while admitting the contract, averred that she had not bound herself to accept the drama or to pay for it unless it was a piece of which she approved, and which, moreover, was suited to her own powers and style of acting, as well as to those of the leading members of her company. She counterclaimed the sum of £150 which she had paid to the plaintiff on account of the said drama. The Court was closely packed, and crowds were turned away disappointed. Mrs. Langtry, attired in a blue serge dress, a blue cloth jacket, with a waistcoat of old gold, and a brown straw hat and feathers, occupied a seat immediately in front of her counsel—Mr. Lockwood, Q.C., and Mr. Le Breton (her brother). Mr. Buchanan was represented by Mr. Winch, Q.C., and Mr. E. F. Studd.
     Mr. Winch, Q.C., opening the case for the plaintiff, stated that in September, 1888, Mrs. Langtry was desirous of having a play written for her for production in New York, and on the 10th of that month telegraphed to Mr. Buchanan, asking him to see her on Thursday, the 13th. Mr. Buchanan saw Mrs. Langtry, and had a conversation with her as to her requirements. She told him that she wanted him to write a play for her to bring out in New York, that she would play the chief part in it, and that she would like the scenes to be so arranged as to enable her to wear a number of very beautiful dresses which she had recently bought in Paris. Mr. Buchanan, with a prudence which turned out to be more than usually needful, asked Mrs. Langtry to put the arrangement into writing, and on Sept. 14 she wrote him the following letter:                                                                                                                                                   “Sept. 14, 1888.
     “Dear Mr. Buchanan—I accept your offer to write me a modern drama in not less than four acts, with a leading star part for myself, on the terms proposed, viz., that I pay you £150 down and £150 on the delivery of the MS. and the sum of £50 weekly during my performances of the piece. It is understood that the above prepayment of £300 is on account of the said weekly royalty of £50. It is also understood that I have the sole right of performing the said drama for a period of three years. The piece is to be delivered to me in New York not later than Nov. 30, and to be produced on or about Jan. 7 in New York City.—Yours truly,                                                              “LILLIE LANGTRY.”
     To this, on the same day, Mr. Buchanan replied:
     “Dear Mrs. Langtry—I herewith acknowledge receipt of your letter of this date recapitulating our agreement as follows: (1) That I am to write you a play in not less than four acts, with a leading star part for yourself, and to deliver it to you in New York not later than Nov. 30 next; (2) that you are to pay for author’s royalties the fixed sum of £50 weekly whenever the play is acted, and wherever, and in consideration of your so doing you are to have the sole acting rights for a term of three years; (3) that you are to pay me in advance of said royalties £150 down and £150 on delivery of the MS.; and (4) that the play is to be produced by you in New York on or about Jan. 7 next. To all these I once more agree, and you may rely on my using my stringent endeavours to produce a drama worthy of your talents and of the occasion.—Awaiting the receipt of your cheque for the first sum of £150 as arranged, I am, dear Mrs. Langtry, yours most truly,
                                                                                                                               “ROBERT BUCHANAN.
     “P.S.—You will greatly oblige me by sending on a list of the leading members of the company, also by letting me know the exact date of your return to town, that I can see you and make some preliminary suggestions on the subject of the play.”
     The next day Mrs. Langtry wrote:
     “Dear Mr. Buchanan—I enclose cheque for £150. Please let me have a note in answer to mine. I omitted to say that I should prefer, if possible, not too long a cast, and also to tell you that nice supers are hard to get anywhere in America, and impossible in some parts. Still of course, if necessary, they can be found.—Yours truly,    
                                                                                                                                     “LILLIE LANGTRY.
     “I shall look forward to hearing something of the plot before I leave for America.”
     This was followed on Sept. 15 by another:
     “Dear Mr. Buchanan—My company consists of C. Coghlan, leading man; Fred. Everill, comedian and character. (Here followed a list of members of the company.) These are all the principals I have at present. Should there be a strong lover’s part in the piece as well as Coghlan’s I could engage some one specially, Calvert not being a good stage lover. You will see I have no old man nor old woman, but, of course, would engage. So I really think you had better not consider the company much beyond Coghlan, and Fred. Everill, who is excellent.—Yours truly,
                                                                                                                                     “LILLIE LANGTRY.
     “Of course, you will make me a woman’s, not a girl’s, part.”
     Inasmuch as it was necessary to get the play sent over to America by Nov. 30, Mr. Buchanan put all his other word on one side, and eventually produced a drama of which he understood his learned friend Mr. Lockwood had read a good deal. (Laughter.)
     Mr. Lockwood: Quite enough. (Renewed laughter.)
     Mr. Winch did not think it material to the issue to read the play at all. Mr. Buchanan had a great interest in writing a good play, and a play that was likely to have a run, because unless it ran more than six weeks he would get nothing beyond his £300. Mr. Buchanan believed he had written a good play, and it was duly delivered in America by No. 30. On Dec. 1 he wrote this letter:
     “Dear Mrs. Langtry—It has been stated here in many newspapers that you are arranging to open at the Fifth Avenue Theatre with a revival of “Macbeth.” I trust it is not true, as it would mean the breach of your contract with me for the production of my play on Jan. 7. If, however, you desire to change your plans we had better come to some amicable arrangement, for as your season in New York is very short, I should be a heavy loser after my cordial efforts to keep faith with you, and provide you with a popular play. Kindly let me know how you propose to act in the matter. I am quite content to meet you in every way. I am awaiting your acknowledgement of the MS. together with the balance of deposit money, £150. I shall be very sorry indeed if there are to be any difficulties between us, as I have great faith in the popular qualities of “Lady Gladys.”—With all good wishes, yours truly,
                                                                                                                                 “ROBERT BUCHANAN.”
     On Dec. 12 Mrs. Langtry wrote the following reply, in which she said nothing about the preparations for the production of “Macbeth.” She said:
     “Dear Mr. Buchanan—By this post I return your MS. of “Lady Gladys,” in sending which I fancy you must have made a mistake, as it is so very unlike what you promised and I expected. I hope by this time you have discovered the error and that the right play is now on its way to New York. If it is indeed the play you intended for me, I may tell you it is not of the slightest service to me. The part is weak (as I think is the play) and unsympathetic, and the surroundings nil. You must remember what we arranged, and you agreed and promised to write for me—a play with the heroine a star part, strong, emotional, and sympathetic; the hero, of weight and power, such as I could offer to Mr. Coghlan; two or three well-defined characters of importance, and others as you might require to fill out the plot. You have placed me in a serious dilemma. I desired, and had promised, to produce a new play in New York, and relied entirely on you for the play, and now at the last moment I am left to seek for others, but I cannot accept or produce a play so unworthy of both you and me.—Yours faithfully,
                                                                                                                                       “LILLIE LANGTRY.”
     After this endeavours were made from time to time to effect a compromise. At one time Mr. Buchanan was willing to let Mrs. Langtry have another play; but no settlement was arrived at. In defence to the claim Mrs. Langtry said the part allotted to her was not suited to her powers and styles of acting. If such a contention were admitted writers of plays would be absolutely at the mercy of those for whom they wrote. An actress had only to say, “I have read the play, and in my judgment it is not suited to my powers and style of acting,” and there was an end of it. The author would be powerless. It might be said, “What a hardship that Mrs. Langtry should have to pay for a play unsuited to her,” but there was really no greater hardship in this case than in any other. If a man contracted with an artist to paint a picture for 500 guineas, and when the work was finished did not like it, he would nevertheless pay if the artist had painted it to the best of his skill. Similarly, Mrs. Langtry had no right to reject this play without payment.
     Mr. Robert Buchanan then went into the witness-box, and, in reply to Mr. Winch, said: I am the plaintiff in this case, and reside at 25, Mansfield-gardens, South Hampstead. In consequence of a telegram I received from Mrs. Langtry in September, 1888, I called upon her on the 14th of that month. Mrs. Langtry requested me to write a play for her—one that would, as far as possible, suit her powers as an actress. She said it must be delivered by Nov. 30, and that she would leave the material and treatment of the play entirely in my hands. I told her I thought a £50 royalty would be a fair price for it, and she agreed. I asked for the usual deposit, so much down and so much on delivery of the MS., and these terms she accepted. The agreement was put into writing. She gave me a cheque for £150 a few days after, and, although I had great difficulty in finding her, the play was delivered by Nov. 30, as arranged.
     Is this a play which you have written to the best of your ability?—Yes, perfectly.
     And is it a play in which Mrs. Langtry’s part would be a leading star part?—Decidedly.
     What about these dresses Mrs. Langtry had bought?—She mentioned to me in conversation that she desired to be able to wear good modern dresses in the play, as she had bought some in Paris which she intended to use.
     Would the play enable her to use these dresses?—Oh, yes.
     How many changes were there?—Four.
     Cross-examined by Mr. Lockwood: As to the dresses, Mr. Buchanan, that would be merely a question of period, would it not?—It was distinctly understood between us that the piece was to be a modern one.
     Are you quite sure the occasion of your seeing Mrs. Langtry and discussing this play with her was on the 14th?—I saw her on more than one occasion.
     You saw her on the 13th?—Yes, I think so, but we did not discuss the terms then—only the possibility of my writing a play for her.
     Was the contract made partly on the 13th?—Nothing was said about money then.
     Never mind the money?—But the money was the contract. (Laughter.)
     But you don’t mean to say you would take money for nothing? Attend, please. Did Mrs. Langtry explain to you on the 13th the kind of play she wished to have written for her?—No doubt.
     She particularly told you she did not want to have a girl’s part?—No; she never said anything about that until she put it into her letter. I should never have thought of writing her a girl’s part—in a theatrical sense.
     Did she say she wanted a strong and sympathetic part?—Yes.
     One hundred and fifty pounds was paid you on Sept. 14. When did you set to work on the piece?—I had first to think out what I was going to write. I could not tell you the exact date, but I set to work practically at once—after I had got the deposit. (Laughter.)
     Did you say anything about writing for Mr. Coghlan?—I understood that he was a member of the company.
     Did you express pleasure at the prospect of writing a part for Mr. Coghlan?—Not in the least. Why should I? (Laughter.)
     If you ask me, I say I don’t know. (Renewed laughter.) But did you?—I did not.
     Which is the part you wrote for Mr. Coghlan in this play?—The gentleman who appears in the second act—Edgar, the son of the old man. I had no particular desire that Mr. Coghlan should play it.
     Did you write it for him?—I thought it would suit him.
     You had your attention called to the fact that Mr. Everill was in the company?—Yes, and I thought he could play either of the old men admirably. There are two or three in the piece, and he could play either with distinction.
     Which did you intend for him?—The father.
     Do you mean the broken-down old earl? (Laughter.)—I mean the father.
     Sir Geoffrey?—Yes.
     As I understand this play, Mrs. Langtry’s part was that of the daughter of the broken-down earl?—Yes; that is your way of describing it.
     There is no harm in breaking down an earl? (Laughter.)—Theatrically, I suppose, no.
     And the broken-down earl contended that he had been deprived of his property by Sir Gilbert Vane?—Yes; he had been dispossessed.
     And his view, of course, did not coincide with that of Sir Gilbert?—No.
     And the earl was living almost at the park gates?—In the neighbourhood, but not at the park gates.
     And the main incident of the play, as I understand it, in the first act is that of Sir Gilbert shooting a dog?—Yes.
     And you intended that a practically trained dog should appear on the stage with Mrs. Langtry?—Yes; it is an incident in the first act.
     It is a very important incident in the play, is it not?—It is, and it is meant to be so.
     “Enter Lady Gladys in a riding habit—fair hair—fearless manner—followed by a large Newfoundland or retriever dog. N.B.—This dog must be trained to follow the actress, and to carry out the business of the scene.” (Laughter.) Where did you think Mrs. Langtry was to get this intelligent dog from?—Almost any intelligent Newfoundland or retriever would do it.
     Had you intimated to Mrs. Langtry that you intended to introduce a dog?—No; but I could have sent a dog to her.
     Then you had a dog in your own mind?—I had.
     Do you mean to say that you wrote this part having in your mind a particular dog? (Laughter.)—There would be no difficulty in getting a Newfoundland or retriever to do it.
     A great deal turns on the dog, I understand?—Yes.
     He is shot?—Yes, but off the stage. He is not killed on the stage.
     He follows the actress off the stage and is shot. He has to be trained for all this?—No training would be required.
     But I am reading your own words—“This dog must be trained to follow the actress, and to carry out the business of the scene.” The dog is shot by Sir Gilbert?—Yes, in a momentary fit of anger; the dog trespassing in the covers while he is shooting.
     Shortly afterwards this Lady Gladys, having married a gentleman of the name of Gascoigne, who dies before the second act opens——?—The first act is practically the prologue of the piece.
     After the second act opens she is a widow of the name of Mrs. Gascoigne, and, to revenge herself upon Sir Gilbert, marries his son, abroad, under the name of Mrs. Gascoigne?—Not exactly to revenge herself. Partly to revenge herself and partly to become repossessed of the estates.
     And to turn out the old man, Sir Gilbert?—Yes. Her father had died before the incident of the shooting of the dog, having a weak heart at the time. (Laughter.)
     Like the dog, he dies “off”? (Laughter.)—Yes. He practically dies on the stage, because he faints on the stage.
     But people who faint on the stage don’t always die?—I did not say so.
     At any rate, she marries Edgar, having obtained from him a deed of gift of this place, which had previously belonged to her father, and had been transferred to Sir Gilbert?—Edgar has received a deed of gift from his father of the place, and then gives it to his wife on their marriage. She comes back and turns out the old man. Of course, the son does not know she is the daughter of the earl.
     She is recognised on the day of her return?—Yes.
     And she turns out the old man?—She does not absolutely turn him out. She makes it unpleasant for him.
     I don’t mean to say that she takes him neck and crop, but she orders him off the premises?—Yes.
     She ascertains that during her father’s lifetime he was the recipient of anonymous gifts from Edgar Gascoigne; her heart melts; curtain; and that is the play, is it not? (Laughter.)—That is a very inadequate description.
     That is the play, is it not?—You have described it roughly as you might describe any play—“Hamlet” or “Macbeth,” for instance.
     I am not going to describe “Hamlet” to-day, or “Macbeth” either. If it becomes my duty to do so I will endeavour to describe them as faithfully as I have “Lady Gladys.” (Laughter.)—You have omitted a good deal.
     Yes; I have left out the humour. (Laughter.) I will read a passage. Can you call my attention to any portion of the play that is more humorous than that which I am going to read to you? There is a person who plays the part of Major Fitzherbert, an officer on half pay—and very dear at the price—(laughter)—and there is a Mrs. Pope, to whom he is talking at the time. “The Major: I say, Mrs. Pope, what a jolly story that was of yours about the fellow who went to India and when he got back found she had married another fellah!—Mrs. Pope (referring to some book she had written): Oh, ‘Twice Wedded.’ A very early effort.—The Major (lighting a cigar): Haw, haw! Why don’t you write a story about a woman who has worn mourning for two husbands and call it “The Garden of Hymen; or, Twice Weeded.’ Haw, haw, haw! You are welcome to the title.” (Laughter.) Now, Mr. Buchanan, can you call my attention to any portion of the play that is more humorous than that?—You take it as humorous, and it is meant to be so.
     Do you call this a serious play?—Yes; but a play must contain some light dialogue.
     Can you show me a lighter passage?—I don’t think you have any right to read passages like that.
     Mr. Justice Charles: I think, Mr. Lockwood, if you were to read “She Stoops to Conquer” in such a style as that, no one would laugh.
     Mr. Lockwood: I wish to do justice to the piece, my Lord.
     Mr. Justice Charles: And yet no one would say that “She Stoops to Conquer” is not a good comedy.
     Mr. Lockwood: If I did not do justice to the extract—and I understand I did not—(laughter)—I can only appeal to Mr. Buchanan,, who is the best judge of what his dialogue is capable of. (Renewed laughter.)
     Cross-examination continued: The part of Lady Gladys in the first act is that of an unmarried woman?—Yes.
     Do you consider that that part is such a strong and sympathetic part as Mrs. Langtry desired you to write for her?—Yes.
     I suppose, in your judgment, Mrs. Langtry was to some extent to have a right to say whether this was a strong and sympathetic part?—No.
     Were you to be the sole arbiter of that?—Yes; so far as the contract was concerned. I offered to come to terms with her again and again, if she was not satisfied with it. She had broken the contract before that, for she was rehearsing “Macbeth” before my MS. arrived.
     I must object to any remark of that sort, Mr. Buchanan. Such a statement can only be made from something that has been told you?—It was in all the English newspapers.
     Do you suggest that Mrs. Langtry had made up her mind to reject your play before she had read it, and after she had paid you £150?—Yes. She was rehearsing “Macbeth,” and could not have produced it.
     Re-examined by Mr. Winch: With reference to this dog, all it had to do was to follow its mistress about the stage?—The dog goes on the stage with her and goes off with her.
     And his melancholy death occurs in the wings?—Yes.
     The dog does not have to be trained to die? (Laughter).—No.
     With regard to the parts given to the Major and to Mrs. Pope, were they principal parts?—No; they were what are usually called, in theatrical parlance, “comic reliefs.”
     And this nonsense that the Major talks is meant to be a relief for the more serious parts?—Yes; the speech is in character with the man.
     This concluded the case for the plaintiff.
     Mr. Lockwood, in opening the case for the defendant, pointed out that Mr. Buchanan stood in a very different position from that which would be occupied by a painter who had been commissioned to paint a portrait. Mr. Buchanan was bound by the promise he had made and by the contract into which he had entered. And really in respect of the promise there appeared to be not very much dispute between Mr. Buchanan and Mrs. Langtry. Mrs. Langtry asked the plaintiff to write a play upon terms, one of which was that the leading star part for herself should be strong and sympathetic. She started for America, looking forward to the production of a new play which she had promised to being forward in New York. He regretted that the plaintiff had thought fit to impute to Mrs. Langtry dishonourable conduct of which she could never be capable. The plaintiff’s suggestion was that before seeing the play and after paying a deposit of £150 Mrs. Langtry had determined to throw up the piece and to produce “Macbeth.” That statement was absolutely unfounded. It was unjust, as well as untrue, and was unworthy of the talented man who had made it. The case might well have been conducted without introducing so envenomed and unfair a suggestion. He contended that the part provided for Mrs. Langtry was that of a woman who could have excited no sympathy in any audience. Lady Gladys might have been played with success by some actresses, though she was unsuitable for Mrs. Langtry, being a woman who acted throughout from vengeful motives—a woman who married fraudulently under an assumed name, and who obtained by fraud a deed of gift that enabled her to turn out of doors her husband’s father. He urged that Mr. Buchanan had not fulfilled his part of the contract in providing a character suited to the powers of Mrs. Langtry, and that he was, therefore, not entitled to a verdict. Mrs. Langtry would give her recollection of the interviews, while Mr. Everill—a gentleman whose experience went back a great many years, and who had played in company with Mrs. Langtry—would tell the Court that the part allotted to her in “Lady Gladys” was not suited to her acting.
     Mrs. Langtry was then examined by Mr. Lockwood as follows: Your name is Lillie, I think?—Yes.
     And you are an actress?—Yes.
     In 1888 were you about toe leave England with a theatrical company to play in America?—Yes.
     Were you anxious, in the course of your theatrical tour, to produce a new and original comedy in New York?—Very anxious.
     For that purpose did you put yourself into communication with Mr. Buchanan, the dramatic author?—I did.
     Do you remember when you first saw him?—I think it was on Sept. 13.
     What did you say to him?—I asked him to write me a modern play, with a strong sympathetic part for myself. He asked me who was in my company. I said Mr. Coghlan and Mr. Everill. He said he thought Mr. Coghlan was a very fine actor, and that he would take great pleasure in writing a good part for him. We went into some further details, and he promised to let me know something about the plot before I sailed. He wrote to me before I sailed, and said the time was too short to enable him to complete the plot.
     You have not got the letter?—No; I don’t keep letters.
     On the second occasion had you any further conversation as to the play?—I think nothing more than impressing upon Mr, Buchanan I wanted a strong part and a good part.
     Where were you when you received the manuscript?—I was travelling, playing in a different town every night, so I cannot be quite sure, but I think I was in Toronto. I received it in December.
     And read it?—Yes.
     Is it true to suggest that you had determined to reject the play before you received it?—No.
     Is it true to suggest that you had put “Macbeth” in rehearsal?—The rehearsals began a few weeks afterwards in New York.
     In your opinion, Mrs. Langtry, is the part of Lady Gladys a strong and sympathetic part?
     Mr. Justice Charles: Is that a question which ought to be put to this witness?
     Mr. Lockwood: As an expert, my lord.
     Mr. Justice Charles: If the opinion of the defendant on this part is to be decisive you place the author in her hands.
     Mr. Lockwood: Mrs. Langtry is a lady of experience on the stage. No one knows better than she the kind of part that is suited to her ability. Therefore, in the double capacity of a party who made the stipulation and who knows what her own capabilities are, and she as an expert, I submit I am entitled to put this question.
     Mr. Winch argued that the evidence was inadmissible, inasmuch as the contract had been reduced to writing.
     Mr. Justice Charles: It comes to this—that the defendant is not satisfied that the part would be a strong and sympathetic part in her hands.
     Mr. Lockwood: Mr. Buchanan knew perfectly well for whom he was acting, and he knew the capabilities of this lady.
     Mr. Justice Charles: Who is to decide if the author says, “I supplied a strong and sympathetic part,” and the actor says, “It is not for me a strong and sympathetic part”?
     Mr. Lockwood: The jury, my Lord.
     Mr. Justice Charles: Then do you intend that they should read the play? (Laughter).
     Mr. Lockwood: No, my Lord, although I have no objection to taking a small part in it—(laughter)—as long as I have not to play the Major. (Renewed laughter.) I will take a small part with my learned friend, Mr. Winch. (Laughter.)
     Mr. Winch: I am afraid I could not manage it.
     Mr. Lockwood: Perhaps my learned friend will play the dog. (Renewed laughter.) It was in this regard, my Lord, that I ventured to give Mr. Buchanan a précis of the play.
     Mr. Justice Charles: One could not help feeling, Mr. Lockwood, that the highest efforts of dramatic genius would sound very poor if they were treated in that fashion.
     Mr. Lockwood: I could not realise the full humour of the situation, my Lord. That is why I failed. (Laughter.)
     Mr. Justice Charles: But a précis of a play gives an adequate idea of the play itself.
     Mr. Lockwood: I don’t know whether your Lordship would like to hear the whole of this play read. (Laughter.) I remember when I appeared for Mr. Herman Merivale we read the whole of “The Whip Hand” to Mr. Justice Field. (Laughter.) I don’t know how much he heard of it. (Renewed laughter.)
     Mr. Justice Charles: My impression is that this lady’s view of what is suited to her won’t help you. However, I will take the question and answer to save the expense of a new trial.
     Examination continued: Do you consider the part of Lady Gladys a strong and sympathetic one?—I do not.
     Now, as to this dog—do you consider it as easy a matter to find a dog to fulfil the stage direction as Mr. Buchanan does?—No; in America I do not know where I should find one.
     You did not put “Macbeth” in rehearsal until you got back to New York?—No.
     Cross-examined by Mr. Winch: I think you approached Mr. Buchanan about his writing you a play?—Yes.
     Had he known you before?—Only by reputation.
     You had known him as a successful playwriter?—Yes.
     And you thought he was the man who could write a play for you?—I thought so.
     You considered his reputation as a playwriter so high that you could trust him to write a play for you?—Yes.
     Do you attach any importance to the fact that the part to be written for you was to be strong and sympathetic?—I did, and I gave my reasons.
     Then why did you not put it into your written contract?—It was very hastily drawn up, and in a friendly way. The word “star” was in the contract—that is a strong part.
     Then any person who is a “star” must be strong and sympathetic?—No; strong.
     But in the acting world, Mrs. Langtry, you would always be considered strong?—I am referring to the part.
     Why would this part of Lady Gladys not be strong and sympathetic for you?—I could not command the sympathy or interest of the audience. I could not have held the audience; nor was there sufficient strength in the surroundings to help me to carry the piece through.
     But in this play, I understand, you are broken-hearted with agony because your father, the earl, has been ousted from his estate, and that all your grief is for him, and not for yourself?—I have not read the play for three years, but I believe the father dies in the first act, so that her grief must be for her own satisfaction, for it cannot benefit him. (Laughter.)
     You are the strong character trying to redeem your father’s grievances?—No; it is a mean, vindictive character. It seemed to me that the motive that actuated her was the death of the dog more than the death of her father. (Laughter.)
     As to the dog, you say you could not get a Newfoundland or a retriever in America?—Mr. Buchanan thought the dog was so important that he wrote me a letter saying that it must be trained. It was a most important dog. (Laughter.)
     All he has to do is to follow you about?—I can’t remember.
     Mr. Lockwood: The stage direction is, “This dog must be trained to follow the actress, and to carry out the business of the scene.”
     Mr. Justice Charles: This is a very small point.
     Mr. Winch: Very well, my Lord, but my friend made a great point of it.
     Cross-examination continued: When you received the MS. at Toronto Mr. Coghlan had left you for a short time?—Yes.
     Why?—To get scenery for “Macbeth,” which was to follow.
     In which you were to appear as Lady Macbeth?—Yes.
     Then you had already arranged to put “Macbeth” on the stage?—Yes; we have to look a long way ahead.
     Is it not a strange coincidence that on Dec. 1, when this play arrived, you had arranged to play in “Macbeth”?—Not an unusual one. I am now considering what I shall play after Cleopatra.
     You have been unfortunate before, I think, Mrs. Langtry, in the matter of plays written for you. Did not Mr. Haddon Chambers write a play for you?—Yes.
     And you did not like it?—No.
     And he went to law?—No.
     To arbitration?—Yes; Mr. Bancroft was the arbitrator. Mr. Chambers finally accepted a previous offer of mine.
     That was a play you rejected after it had been written for you?—No; it was not a play written for me. It was a play which Mr. Chambers thought he could “write up” for me. When he had finished my part it seemed out of proportion to the characters of the rest of the book, and the motive was not sufficiently strong. It spoilt an otherwise very good play.
     Then that was another play that was not strong enough for you?—The woman’s part, when made strong killed the rest of the piece.
     Then it was too strong? (Laughter.) I hope the next time you will get a play that will suit you.—Thank you.
     I believe the play which you rejected has been a great success in New York since?—I do not know anything about it. I have not heard.
     Re-examined by Mr. Lockwood: Your offer to Mr. Haddon Chambers came before Mr. Bancroft as arbitrator, and he merely directed that it should be given effect to?—Yes.
     I believe you had to open in New York with some old plays in consequence of “Lady Gladys” not suiting you?—Yes; I played in “Peril” for a week and in “As In a Looking-glass.” After that “Macbeth” was put on, but we had to work night and day.
     The further hearing was adjourned until the morning.

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The Pall Mall Gazette (21 November, 1890)

AUTHOR AND ACTRESS AT VARIANCE.

THE BUCHANAN-LANGTRY DISPUTE.

     The theatrical dispute of the hour was brought into the Queen’s Bench Division before Mr. Justice Charles, yesterday. Mr. Robert Buchanan sues Mrs. Langtry for £2,000, on the ground that she did not open the New York season of 1889 with a play he had written for her, entitled “Lady Gladys.” Mrs. Langtry pleaded that the piece was unsuited to her powers, and that therefore under a contract which had been drawn up she was at liberty to reject the piece. She further demands the return of £150 paid in respect of the play. Mr. Winch, Q.C., and Mr. Studd were for the plaintiff, whilst  Mr. Lockwood, Q.C., and Mr. Le Breton appeared for Mrs. Langtry.
     Mr. Winch, in his opening, detailed how Mr. Buchanan had been asked to write a play in not less than four acts, and with a leading star part for Mrs. Langtry. It was arranged that Mrs. Langtry should pay the plaintiff £150 down and. £150 on the delivery of the manuscript, the royalty being £50 a week, and the two sums of £150, being in advance of it. It was also understood that Mrs. Langtry should have the sole right of performance for three years, and that the piece was to be delivered not later than the 30th of November, 1888, and should be produced in January, 1889. The learned counsel read other correspondence with regard to the personnel of the company, &c., and said the plaintiff set to work and wrote a play. He was not so fortunate as his learned friend, who, he understood, had read a great deal of it.
     Mr. Lockwood: Quite enough. (Laughter.)
     Mr. Winch said the play was delivered on November 30, and plaintiff wrote complaining that if “Macbeth” were produced as announced the agreement would be broken, Mrs. Langtry replied, returning the manuscript, thinking the wrong one must have been sent to her—the play was unworthy of Mr. Buchanan and of herself.
     Mr. Robert Buchanan was put in the witness-box, and there was a desperate conflict between him and Mr. Lockwood as to the exact shade of meaning certain passages in the play (read by Mr. Lockwood) were intended to bear. The question of a “learned dog,” or an alleged learned dog, was also discussed between author and counsel with animation—and amid the audible amusement of the court.
     Mr. Lockwood then pointed out on behalf of Mrs. Langtry that the play was precisely what she had not stipulated for, and that she had practically parted with £150 for nothing. He regretted Mr. Buchanan’s “venomous suggestion” that Mrs. Langtry had determined to shelve the play in any case, so that she might produce “Macbeth.''

MRS. LANGTRY IN THE WITNESS-BOX.

     The fair defendant was then put in the witness-box. She was neatly and simply dressed, spoke generally in rather tragic tones, and looked as charming as ever. The crowd which had thronged the court by this time was a huge one, and was composed of about equal proportions of literary and dramatic celebrities. Mr. Buchanan and Miss Harriett Jay were present, and two ladies seated on the bench by the judge had also come to see how “the Jersey Lily” would acquit herself of her new rôle.
     Mr. Lockwoad elicited that Mrs. Langtry had applied to Mr. Buchanan to write a piece, and, said she, in answer to a further question, “I impressed on Mr. Buchanan that I wanted a good part.”
     Mr. Lockwood: Mrs, Langtry, is it true to suggest that you had determined to reject the play before you received it? —Mrs. Langtry: There is not a word of truth in the suggestion.
     A long discussion arose at this point between the judge and Mr. Winch and Mr. Lockwood as to whether Mrs. Langtry could be asked if she thought the leading part in Mr. Buchanan’s piece a strong and sympathetic one.
     Ultimately it was decided that the defendant’s answer expressing dissatisfaction might be recorded.
     Mr. Lockwood: It must be taken that Mr. Buchanan knew for whom he was writing. But the fitness of the play should be decided by the jury.
     Mr. Justice Charles: Do you intend that they should read the play?
     Mr. Lockwood (embarrassed for a moment) did not reply immediately. Then he alluded to Mr. Merivale’s “Whip Hand” which was read before Mr. Justice Field, “but I don’t know how he liked it.” (Laughter.)
     Mr. Winch, in cross-examination, caused some amusement by extracting from Mrs. Langtry the statement that the heroine appeared to think more of the death of a dog in the piece than of the death of the heroine’s father, which was supposed to be an important feature. He also alluded to the arbitration-case about a play by Mr. Haddon Chambers, in which, according to the witness, the woman’s part, when duly written up, was “too strong.”
     The further hearing of the case was adjourned until to-day.

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The Guardian (21 November, 1890 - p.6)

ACTION BY A DRAMATIC AUTHOR.

BUCHANAN v. LANGTRY.

     In the Court of Queen’s Bench yesterday afternoon the case of Buchanan v. Langtry came before Mr. Justice Charles and a common jury. Great interest was shown in the proceedings, the court being crowded.
     The action was brought by Mr. Robert Buchanan, the dramatic author, against Mrs. Lillie Langtry, who is now the lessee and manageress of the Princess’s Theatre, London, to recover damages laid at £2,000 for a legal breach of a contract to open her New York theatrical season last year with a play written by the plaintiff. Mrs. Langtry admitted making the contract, but pleaded that one of its terms was that she should not be bound to accept the drama unless it was suited to her own powers and style of acting; that the plaintiff’s play did not suit her or her company, and that therefore she was not liable. Further, the defendant put in a counter claim for £150, which she had paid the plaintiff in respect of the play. Mr. Winch, Q.C., and Mr. Studd appeared for the plaintiff; and Mr. Lockwood, Q.C., M.P., and Mr. Le Breton for the defendant.
     Mr. Winch, in opening the case, said that the claim of his client was for a balance due to him for a play which he wrote for the well-known actress Mrs. Langtry, who had already paid £150. In September, 1888, Mrs. Langtry was desirous of having written for her a play which she might produce in New York. On the 10th September Mr. Buchanan received a telegram asking him to meet Mrs. Langtry. On the 14th Mr. Buchanan saw her and had a conversation with her. Mrs. Langtry told him that she desired him to write a play which she might produce in New York, and in which she would take the chief part. Among other things, Mrs. Langtry told Mr. Buchanan that she had been to Paris, and had bought a number of very beautiful dresses, and that the scenes of the play were to be so arranged that she could wear these beautiful dresses. Accordingly Mr. Buchanan, with a prudence that, as events turned out, was very wise, asked Mrs. Langtry to give him an agreement. The agreement was written as follows:—”September 14.—Dear Mr. Buchanan, I accept your offer to write me a modern drama in not less than four acts with a leading star part for myself on the terms proposed, viz., that I should pay you £150 down and £150 on the delivery of the MS., and the sum of £50 weekly during my performance of the piece. It is understood that the above prepaid £300 is on account of the said weekly royalty of £50 a week. It is also understood that I have the sole right of performing the said drama for a period of three years. The piece is to be delivered to me in new York, not later than the 30th of November, and to be produced on or about the 7th of January, in New York City.—Yours truly, LILLIE LANGTRY.”—On the same day Mr. Buchanan acknowledged the receipt of the letter and reiterated the terms on which the play was to be written. In the same letter he informed Mrs. Langtry that she might rely on him using very great efforts to write a play worthy of her talents. On the following Friday Mrs. Langtry again wrote to Mr. Buchanan, enclosing a cheque for £150, and saying that she would prefer not too long a cast, as “nice supers are hard to get in America, and impossible in some parts, though of course if necessary they can be found.” In answer to Mr. Buchanan, Mrs. Langtry wrote the names of the company, and said that there must be a “strong lover’s part” in the piece as well as a strong part that she could offer to Mr. Coghlan, as “Mr. Calvert was not a good stage lover.”—(Laughter.) “Of course,” continued Mrs. Langtry, “you will make me a woman’s and not a girl’s part.” On receiving the deposit Mr. Buchanan put on one side all his other work and began to write the play. The play, which was called “Lady Gladys,” he had not read, though he understood that his learned friend had read it.
     Mr. Lockwood: Quite enough of it.—(Laughter.)
     Mr. Winch pointed out that Mr. Buchanan had a very great interest in writing a play that would have a long run. Some time afterwards Mr. Buchanan wrote to Mrs. Langtry asking her if there was truth in the rumour given in all the English newspapers that she was to re-open the Fifth Avenue Theatre with a revival of “Macbeth.” “I trust,” said Mr. Buchanan, “that this is not true, as it would amount to a breach of your contract with me. If you, however, desire to change your plans we had better come to some amicable arrangement, as, your season in New York being short, I shall be a heavy loser. I am, however, quite prepared to meet you in any way.” To that letter Mr. Buchanan got an answer in which nothing was said about the revival of “Macbeth.” That letter said—”By this post I return your MS., in sending which I venture to think that you must have made a mistake, as it is so very unlike what you promised. I hope you have discovered the error, and that the right play is now on the way to New York. If, however, it is the play you intended for me, I may tell you that it is not of the slightest service. The part is weak, as is the play. It is unsympathetic, and the surroundings nil. You must remember what we arranged for was a play with a heroine star part, strong, emotional, and sympathetic, and a hero’s part weighty and powerful, such as I could offer to Mr. Coghlan. You have placed me in a serious dilemma. I desired and promised to produce a new play in New York, and relied on you. Now at the last moment I am obliged to seek other plays, for I cannot produce a play so unworthy of you and of me.” After that letter Mr. Buchanan made an effort to compromise the matter, and was willing to let Mrs. Langtry have the play. Unfortunately no settlement had been arrived at, and the question was now left for the decision of the jury.
     Mr. Robert Buchanan was called and examined by Mr. Winch. He stated that on September 14 Mrs. Langtry requested him to write for her a play. She said that she would leave the material and the treatment of the play entirely in his hands. Thereupon he spoke of terms, and said that he thought that fair terms would be £50 for every week she played the piece. He asked for the usual deposit down and so much on the delivery of the MS. To these terms she assented. Mrs. Langtry during the interview wrote the agreement given in the opening. A day or so afterwards he received a cheque for £150. Mrs. Langtry stated that she had not a banking account in London, and would have to open one. The play was written and was delivered on November 30, notwithstanding great difficulty in finding Mrs. Langtry. “Lady Gladys” was a play that he had written with the best of his ability, and was a play in which Mrs. Langtry’s part would be that of a “Star.” Mrs. Langtry stated that she had bought some good modern dresses in Paris, and desired to use them. There would be four changes.
     Cross-examined by Mr. Lockwood: The question of dress was merely as to period? No; the play was to be a modern play.—When was that discussed? During our conversation. She asked for a piece in which she could use modern costumes.—Are you sure it was on the 14th September only? I saw her on more than one occasion. I saw her, I think, on the previous day.—Was the contract partly made on the 14th? We discussed whether I would write a play.— She said particularly that she did not want a girl’s part? That was put in the letter. I should never have thought of writing her a girl’s part—in the theatrical sense.—When did you set to work? Practically at once, after I got the deposit.—Did you express pleasure at writing a part for Mr. Coghlan? Not in the least. Why should I?—(Laughter.)—What part was for Mr. Coghlan? Edgar Vane. I was not particular that he should play it.—As I understand the play Mrs. Langtry’s part was that of the daughter of a broken down earl? Yes.—There is no harm in breaking down an earl?—(Laughter.)— Theatrically, I suppose not.
     The main act turned on the shooting of a dog which was to appear on the stage with Mrs. Langtry? That is an incident of the first act.—In the directions we are told that the dog must be trained to carry out the business of the scene? Yes.— Where was Mrs. Langtry to get this intelligent dog? Almost any retriever would do, as all that the dog had to do was to follow his mistress about.—Did you indicate where Mrs. Langtry could get such a dog? I could have sent her one. There could be no difficulty, as any retriever would follow its mistress.—A great deal turned on the dog? No; he was not killed on the stage.
     In the play Lady Gladys marries under an assumed name a man named Gascoigne, and obtains from him a deed of gift, with which she returns to England in order to turn out the father of her husband. Does she not do that merely out of revenge? Not exactly out of revenge alone, but partly to repossess herself of her father’s property.—But her father had died? He is like the dog; he dies?—(Laughter.) Yes; he practically dies on the stage.—He faints on the stage? Yes; but all people that faint on the stage do not die?—(Laughter.) No; I did not say so.—When Lady Gladys returns she turns out the old man? Not absolutely. She makes it unpleasant for him.—(Laughter.)—I don’t mean that she takes him neck and crop. She orders him off the premises? Yes.—Then she ascertains that during her father’s poverty he was in receipt of anonymous gifts from Edgar Gascoyne, her heart melts, and then—curtain? That is a very ad captandum description.
     I have left out the humour?—You have left out a good deal. You might describe “Hamlet” or “Macbeth” in the same way.
     I have left out the humour. I will read a passage and will ask you to call my attention to any other portion of the play which you consider more humorous. There is a person who plays the part of Major Fitzherbert, an officer on half-pay— very dear at the price—(laughter)—and a Mrs. Pope. Speaking to Mrs. Pope, the Major says, “I say, Mrs. Pope, what a jolly story that was of yours about the fellah who went to India and when he got back found his wife had married another fellah.” Mrs. Pope (referring to some book she had written); “Oh ‘Twice Wedded’—an early effort.”—Major: “Haw, haw, an idea. Why don’t you write a story about a woman who has worn mourning for two husbands walking in a garden and call it ‘Twice Weeded?’ Haw, haw. You are welcome to the title.”—(Laughter.) You take that as humorous? —It is meant to be so. It is meant to be as you read it.
     Can you call my attention to any funnier part?—I don’t pretend that it is funny.
     Is this a serious play? Yes.—Show me a livelier passage?
     The Judge: If you read “She Stoops to Conquer” like that you would laugh at it.
     Mr. Lockwood apologised for his want of histrionic ability, and resumed his cross-examination.
     Do you really consider the part of Lady Gladys a sympathetic part? Yes.—You were to be sole arbiter as to whether it was sympathetic? Yes; but I offered a compromise afterwards without being able to get a hearing. The contract was broken before that, as she was then rehearsing “Macbeth,” as the English newspapers and Mr. Coghlan, if you call him, will tell you.
     Do you suggest that Mrs. Langtry had made up her mind to reject your play before it reached her, and that after paying £150?—Yes, I do.
     In re-examination Mr. Buchanan said that the characters from whose parts Mr. Lockwood had read were known in theatrical parlance as comic reliefs. The speech was in character with the man who spoke it.
     Mr. Lockwood, in opening the case for the defendant, pointed out that Mr. Buchanan stood in a very different position from that which would be occupied by a painter who had been commissioned to paint a portrait. Mr. Buchanan was bound by the promise he had made and by the contract into which he had entered, and really in respect of the promise there appeared to be not very much dispute between Mr. Buchanan and Mrs. Langtry. Mrs. Langtry asked the plaintiff to write a play on terms one of which was that the leading star part for herself should be strong and sympathetic. She started for America looking forward to the production of a new play which she had promised to bring forward in new York. He regretted that the plaintiff had thought fit to impute to Mrs. Langtry dishonourable conduct of which she could never be capable. The plaintiff’s suggestion was that before seeing the play and after paying a deposit of £150  Mrs. Langtry had determined to throw up the piece and to produce “Macbeth.” That statement was absolutely unfounded. It was unjust as well as untrue, and was unworthy of the talented man who had made it. He contended that the part provided for Mrs. Langtry was that of a woman who could have excited no sympathy in any audience. Lady Gladys might have been played with success by some actresses, though she was unsuitable for Mrs. Langtry, being a woman who acted throughout from vengeful motives—a woman who married fraudulently, under an assumed name, and who obtained by fraud a deed of gift that enabled her to turn out of doors her husband’s father. He urged that Mr. Buchanan had not fulfilled his part of the contract in providing a character suited to the powers of Mrs. Langtry, and that he was therefore not entitled to a verdict.
     Mrs. Langtry, examined by Mr. Lockwood, said that in 1888 she was about to go on tour in America and was anxious to produce a new play in New York. She saw Mr. Buchanan in September and asked him to write a modern play with a strong sympathetic part. Mr. Buchanan asked who was in her company. She replied that there were Mr. Coghlan and Mr. Evelyn. Mr. Buchanan expressed pleasure at finding Mr. Coghlan in the company, as he considered him a good actor, and added that he would write a part worthy of Mr. Coghlan. Mr. Buchanan promised to let her know something of the plot before she sailed, but he wrote saying that he had not been able to think of a plot. She was, she believed, in town when she received the play in December. It was not true that she had determined to reject the play before seeing it.
     Is it a fact that you had put “Macbeth” in rehearsal before receiving the play?—Not until three weeks afterwards, at New York.
     Was a strong and sympathetic part provided for you?
     Mr. Winch objected that this was not an admissible question, inasmuch as there was no such stipulation in the contract.
     His Lordship pointed out that, whatever may have passed in conversation, the parties had in the most formal manner reduced their compact to writing.
     Mr. Lockwood contended that Mrs. Langtry had stipulated for a leading “star” part for herself, and Mr. Buchanan must be taken to have understood what the capabilities of the actress were.
     The Judge said that the contract according to the learned counsel was for a strong and sympathetic part. The author said he had supplied such a part. Who was to decide?
     Mr. Lockwood supposed the jury must decide.
     The Judge asked if it was proposed that the jury should read the play.
     Mr. Lockwood said he himself had not had time to read the play, though he should have no objection to taking a part in it.—(Laughter.) In a case in which he appeared for Mr. Hermann Merivale he had to read the play to Mr. Justice  Field. He did not know how much his Lordship heard of it.—(Laughter.)
     The Judge said that if the highest efforts of dramatic genius were to be measured by Mr. Lockwood’s success on the previous occasion the matter would be left pretty much where it was.
     The learned counsel was ultimately allowed to ask Mrs. Langtry whether the part was a sympathetic one and suited to her.
     Witness said it certainly was not. The part was one which could not command the sympathy or interest of the audience. Her part was that of a mean and vindictive character. It seemed to her that Lady Gladys cared more about the death of the dog than about the death of her father.—(Laughter.) She knew nothing as to whether the play she rejected had subsequently turned out a success.
     The case was adjourned.

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The Morning Post (21 November, 1890 - p.6)

MRS. LANGTRY AND MR. BUCHANAN.
_____

     The action of Mr. Robert Buchanan against Mrs. Langtry began yesterday in the Queen’s Bench Division, before Mr. Justice Charles and a common jury.
     The action was brought by Mr. Buchanan, the dramatic author, against Mrs. Langtry, who is now the lessee and manageress of the Princess’s Theatre, to recover damages, laid at £2,000, for alleged breach of a contract to open her New York theatrical season last year with a play written by the plaintiff. Mrs. Langtry admitted making the contract, but pleaded that one of its terms was that she should not be bound to accept the drama unless it was suited to her own powers and style of acting; that the plaintiff’s play did not suit her or her company, and therefore she was not liable. Further, the defendant counter-claimed for £150 which she had paid the plaintiff in respect of the play.
     Mr. Winch, Q.C., and Mr. Studd appeared for the plaintiff; and Mr. Lockwood, Q.C., and Mr. C. M. Le Breton for the Defendant.
     Mr. Winch said the action was brought by Mr. Riobert Buchanan, the well-known ajuthor, against Mrs. Langtry, the well-known actress, to recover £150, which he alleged was due to him for writing for the defendant a play called “Lady Gladys.” In September, 1888, Mr. Buchanan received a telegram from Mrs. Langtry asking him to see her on the subject of a play which she desired to have written for her. On the 14th of September of that year Mr. Buchanan saw Mrs. Langtry, and had a conversation with her about it. She told him she wanted a play in which she was to take the chief part, and she added that she had been to Paris and had bought a number of beautiful dresses, and the scenes were to be so arranged that these dresses could be displayed. Mr. Buchanan, with a prudence which was highly commendable, asked Mrs. Langtry to put the agreement into writing, so that there could be no mistake. Accordingly, on the 14th of September Mrs. Langtry wrote the following letter to Mr. Buchanan:—

     “Dear Mr. Buchanan,—I accept your offer to write for me a modern drama in not less than four acts with a leading star part for myself on the terms proposed, viz., that I pay you £150 down and £150 on the delivery of the manuscript, and a sum of £50 weekly during the performance of the piece. It is understood that the total prepayment of £300 is on account of the said weekly royalty of £50. It is also understood that I have the sole right of property in the said drama for a period of three years. The piece is to be delivered to me in New York not later than the 30th of November, and to be produced on or about the 7th of January in New York City.

On the same day Mr. Buchanan replied to Mrs. Langtry accepting her offer, and recapitulating the terms of it. He added, “to all this I once more agree, and you may rely on my using my utmost endeavours to produce a drama worthy of your talents and of the occasion. Awaiting the receipt of your cheque for the first sum of £150.” In the postscript he asked Mrs. Langtry to send him a list of the leading members of her company. Mrs. Langtry, in reply, enclosed a cheque for £150, and said she had omitted to say that she should prefer, if possible, not too long a cast, and to tell him also that nice supers were hard to get anywhere in America, and impossible in some parts. In another letter to the plaintiff Mrs. Langtry gave a list of her company, including Mr. C. Coghlan, “leading man,” and Mr. Fred Everill, “comedian and character,” and one young lady, whom she described as “very pretty and ingenue.” There was a postscript, in which she said, “Of course you will make me a woman’s and not a girl’s part.” The contract having been so entered into, mr. Buchanan put all his other work aside to write the play, which was delivered to the defendant on November 30. He (Mr. Winch) had the play in his hand, but he had not the advantage of his learned friend Mr. Lockwood, who, he believed had read a great deal of it.
     Mr. Lockwood—Quite enough. (Laughter.)
     Mr. Winch said he had read very little of the play, because according to the issue raised by the pleadings the only question was whether there was any term introduced that Mrs. langtry should approve of it. They said there was no such term. It was clear that Mr. Buchanan had a great interest in writing a good play, so that it might have a long run. There was no dispute about the play having been delivered in America on November 30. On December 1 Mr. Buchanan wrote to Mrs. Langtry that he had seen it stated in many newspapers that she was arranging to open at the Eighth Avenue Theatre with a revival of “Macbeth,” but he trusted it was not true, as it would mean a breach of contract with him for the production of his play on January 7. He further said that if she desired to change her plans they had better come to some amicable arrangement, and he was quite content to meet her in any way. He should be sorry if there were any difficulties between them, as he had great faith in the popular qualities of “Lady Gladys.” On December 12 Mrs. Langtry replied as follows:—

     Dear SIr,—By this post I return you the manuscript of ‘Lady Gladys,’ in sending which I fancy you have made a mistake, as it is so very unlike what you promised and I expected. I hope by this you have discovered your error, and that the right play is on its way to New York. (Laughter.) If ‘Lady Gladys’ is indeed the play you intended for me, I tell you that it is not of the slightest service to me. The part is weak (as I think is also the play) and unsympathetic, and the surroundings nil. You must remember what we arranged, and you agreed and promised to write for me a play with the heroine a star part—strong, emotional, and sympathetic—the hero of weight and power, such as I could offer to Mr. Coghlan; two or three well defined characters of importance, and others as you may require to fill up the plot. You have placed me in a serious dilemma. I desired, and had promised, to produce a new play in New York, and I relied entirely on you for that play, and now at the last moment I am left to seek for others. I cannot accept and produce a play so unworthy of you and me.”

Endeavours had been made for a compromise, but, unfortunately, they had not succeeded, and no settlement had been arrived at. Mr. Buchanan now sought to recover £150 more, the sum to which he was entitled under the contract, the terms of which were absolute and could not be varied.
     Mr. Robert Buchanan, the plaintiff, said on the 10th of September, 1888, he received a telegram, and in consequence called upon Mrs. Langtry. Defendant requested him to write a play for her, and to suit it, as far as possible, to her abilities as an actress. Defendant said she required it to open her next season with in New York in the following January, and desired him to deliver it by the 30th of November. She said she would leave the material and treatment of the play entirely in his hands, and thereupon he spoke of terms, and said he thought a fair price would be £50 weekly for every week she played it. He asked for the usual deposit, so much down, and so much on receipt of the manuscript, and to these terms she assented. Defendant wrote the letter embodying the terms in his presence, and he took it away and answered it. He received a cheque for £150. He set to work and wrote the play, and it was delivered by the 30th of November. Other correspondence having been put to the witness, he said the play was written to the best of his ability, and Mrs. Langtry’s part would be a “leading star part.” Defendant said she had bought some dresses in Paris, and wished to use them, and there would be four changes of dress in the play.
     Cross-examined by Mr. Lockwood, who asked whether the question of dress would merely have reference to the period, witness said the piece was to be a modern one. He saw Mrs. Langtry on the 13th as well as on the 14th. On the 13th Mrs. Langtry explained the sort of part she would like written for her, and he undertook to write it.
     She particularly said she did not want a girl’s part?—No; she never said that until it was put in her letter. I should never have thought of writing her a girl’s part in the theatrical sense.
     Did she say she wanted a strong and sympathetic part?—Yes.
     Did you express pleasure at writing a part for Mr. Coghlan?—No; why should I express pleasure?
     Mr. Lockwood—I don’t know, I am sure. (Laughter.)
     Witness said the part of Edgar Vane, the son of the old man, was written for Mr. Coghlan, but he did not specially desire that he should play it.
     As I understand the play, Mrs. Langtry’s part was that of the daughter of a broken-down earl? (Laughter.)—Yes, that would be an apparently correct description.
     Mr. Lockwood—Well, there is no harm in breaking an earl down. (Laughter.)—No, we very often do. (Renewed laughter.)
     And the brojen-down earl had been deprived of his property, so he contended, by Sir Gilbert Vane?—He had been dispossessed, as it were.
     That was his view, though it did not coincide with the view of Sir Gilbert. (Laughter.) And he was living at the park gates?—He was living in the neighbourhood, though not at the park gates.
     And the main incident of the play turned upon this, Sir Gilbert, shooting a dog?—Yes.
     A “practicable” dog was to appear on the stage with Mrs. Langtry?—Oh, yes; that was an incident in the first act.
     And it is a very important incident in the play?—It is. It is meant to be so.
     Mr. Lockwood read from the stage directions, “Enter Lady Gladys in riding habit: with her comes a large Newfoundland dog or retriever. N.B.—This dog must be trained to carry out the business of the scene.” Where did you think Mrs. Langtry was to get this intelligent dog?—I think any retriever or Newfoundland would do it.
     Did you indicate to her that she would require this dog?—No, but I could have let her have a dog if she had wanted  it.
     A great deal turns on this dog?—Yes, but he does not turn on the stage. He is shot “off” the stage. No training would be required for a dog to follow its mistress.
     Mr. Lockwood—But I am reading your own words. In a moment of anger the dog is shot by Sir Gilbert, and shortly after this Lady Gladys, having married a gentleman of the name of Gascoigne, who dies before the second act, and being a widow of the name of Gascoigne, in order to revenge herself upon Sir Gilbert marries his son abroad in that name?— Partly to revenge herself and partly to recover the home of her childhood.
     And to turn the old man out?—Oh, no.
     Mr. Lockwood—The earl, having heart disease, dies after the accident to the dog. She marries Edgar, having obtained from him a gift of this place, which had previously belonged to her father, and had been transferred to Gilbert? —Edgar had received a deed of gift from his father, and he gives it to her. He does not know she is Lady Gladys.
     And she goes back to turn the old man out?—(Laughter.) She does not absolutely turn him out, but she makes it unpleasant for him—(renewed laughter)—and he goes. (More laughter.)
     Then she ascertained that during her father’s lifetime, and while he was in poverty, he was in receipt of anonymous gifts from Edgar. Then her heart melts. Curtain. (Laughter.)—You have left out something. You have described it  roughly, as you might describe any play—as you might describe “Hamlet” or “Macbeth.”
     Mr. Lockwood said he had no doubt left out the humour, and drew witness’s attention to a dialogue in the play between a Major FitzHerbert and Mrs. Pope, which the learned counsel read in a somewhat matter-of-fact way. The dialogue turned upon the story of a woman who had been “twice wedded,” and the Mjor sjuggested that a narrative should be written under the title of “Twice Weeded.” The learned counsel challenged the witness to show a lighter touch of humour in the whole play.
     Mr. Justice Charles said that if the learned counsel were to read “She Stoops to Conquer”in such a style as that no one would laugh.
     Witness, in further cross-examination, said he considered he wrote a strong and sympathetic part such as Mrs. Langtry desired he should write for her. Witness further said that the defendant had broken her contract with regard to opening with the play by rehearsing “Macbeth.”
     Do you mean to suggest that Mrs. Langtyr had made up her mind to reject this play before she had read it?—Yes, that is what I suggest. She could not have produced it.
     Re-examined—The parts read were in the nature of what was known as “the comic relief.”
     This was the plaintiff’s case.
     Mr. Lockwood, in opening for the defence, ridiculed the idea that plaintiff was under the arrangement to be the sole judge of what was a strong and sympathetic part. The defendant had paid £150 for the play, and looked forward with interest to receiving it, and it was an absolutely unfounded statement to say that she had made up her mind to reject it before it reached New York. Instead of Mrs. Langtry’s part being a sympathetic one, it was the part of a woman who could desire not sympathy from the audience, and who was a kind of avenging angel. With regard to the wrong done to her father in the first act, the character induced a man by fraud to become her husband, she obtained from him, on the eve of her marriage, which was induced by fraud, a gift of the property which was conveyed to him by his father, and then returned to this country for the purpose of driving from his house the father of her husband, whose property and whose hand in wedlock she had obtained by fraud.
     Mrs. Lillie Langtry, the defendant, said she first saw plaintiff on September 13. She asked him to write her a modern play with a strong sympathetic part. He asked who was in her company, and she said Mr. Coghlan, &c. He said he was very glad Mr. Coghlan was in her company, as he was a fine actor, and he would take pleasure in writing a good part worthy of him. Plaintiff promised to let her know something about the plot before she sailed, but he wrote saying that the time was so short that he could not decide on a plot, and asked her to leave it to him. On the second occasion she did not think anything further passed except that she impressed upon plaintiff that she wanted a strong and sympathetic part. She thought she received the manuscript at Toronto, but could not say for certain, as they were playing in different towns every night. She received it a day or two after the 30th of November, but that was because she was not in New York, and she did not complain of that. It was not true that she made up her mind to reject the play before she saw it. They rehearsed “Macbeth” about three weeks after.
     Mr. Lockwood proposed to ask the witness whether the part was strong or sympathetic, and considerable discussion took place. Mr. Winch objecting.
     Mr. Justice Charles said an actress might say that a part was not a strong, sympathetic, or emotional part for her, but who was to decide?
     Mr. Lockwood—The jury. (Laughter.)
     Mr. Justice Charles asked whether if the the jury were to read the play as counsel’s précis, would that be enough to enable them to judge?
     Mr. Lockwood—I don’t mind taking a part in it, so long as it is only the Major. (Laughter.) It must be a small one. (Laughter.)
     Mr. Winch was understood to inquire what part he should take. (Laughter.)
     Mr. Lockwood—Oh, perhaps you will take the dog. (Laughter.)
     His Lordship said he was under the impression the contract was contained in the letters, but admitted the question, making a note of the objection.
     Witness said the part was neither a strong nor a sympathetic one.
     Cross-examined—She attached importance to the stipulation that the part should be strong and sympathetic, but it was not included in the letters because they were hurriedly drawn up. The part of Lady Gladys would not have interested the audience. The father died in the first act, and it was some time after his death that Lady Gladys did all these things. It must have been to please herself. (Slighht applause.) It was, in her opinion, a mean, vindictive character, and it seemed to her the motive which actuated Lady Gladys was the death of the dog more than the death of her father. (Laughter.) Mr. Buchanan wrote her a letter saying that the dog would have to be trained. He said she should want a most intelligent dog.
     Mr. Winch—But the business of the dog in the scene is simply to follow you about.
     Mr. Justice Charles—But this is a very small part of the case.
     Mr. Winch said he asked the question, as Mr. Lockwood had made a good deal of the matter in trying to decry the play.
     Mr. Lockwood—No, no.
     Cross-examination resumed—Mr. Coghlan was not with her when the play was received. He left temporarily to get the scenery for “Macbeth,” which was to follow this play. They had to look a long way ahead. This play might not have run a day. She had made arrangements to appear later on in “Macbeth.” At present she was thinking what she should act next, but she hoped “Cleopatra” would run a day or two. (Laughter.) She had never known a play run to pay for more than four weeks with her in New York, and after this play she contemplated giving “Macbeth” for four weeks, filling up the remaining two weeks of her engagement with old plays. A paragraph as to the production of “Macbeth” in the Era was accurate, and she now understood how the suggestion that she was going to present it first arose. She commenced with old plays.
     Re-examined—They commenced in new York with “Peril,” followed by “As in a Looking-Glass,” and then “Macbeth,” and they had to work night and day to get the latter ready.
     The hearing was adjourned.

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The Scotsman (21 November, 1890 - p. 6)

     MR BUCHANAN’S ACTION AGAINST MRS LANGTRY.—In the Queen’s Bench Division yesterday, before Mr Justice Charles and a common jury, the case of Buchanan v. Langtry came on for trial. Mr Robert Buchanan, the well-known dramatic author, sued Mrs Langtry, who is now the lessee and manageress of the Princess’ Theatre, to recover damages laid at £2000 for alleged breach of a contract to open her New York theatrical season last year with a play written by the Plaintiff. Mrs Langtry admitted making the contract, but pleaded that one of its terms was that she should not be bound to accept the drama unless it was suited to her own powers and style of acting, that the plaintiff’s play did not suit her or her company, and therefore she was not liable; further, the defendant counter-claimed for £150, which she had paid the plaintiff in respect of the play. Mr Winch, Q.C., and Mr Studd appeared for the plaintiff, and Mr Lockwood,   Q.C., and Mr Le Breton for the defendant. Mr Winch having opened the case, Mr Robert Buchanan was called and narrated the circumstances that led to his writing the play of “Lady Gladys.” Mrs Langtry, he said, made complaints with reference to it. Q.—Was there anything said about the dresses in the interview you had with her? A.—Yes. She said she wished to use some attractive modern dresses, and had bought some at Paris for the purpose. It was understood that there would be four changes of dress in the course of the play. Cross-examined by Mr LOCKWOOD—Mrs Langtry asked me to produce a play in which she could use modern costumes, and in which she would have a strong sympathetic part. Q.—A dog was to appear in the first act? A.—Yes. Q.—Where do you think that Mrs Langtry was to get this very intelligent dog? A.—I think almost anywhere. If necessary, I could have sent her a dog to suit her purpose. There was no difficulty in getting a well-bred Newfoundland or retriever to follow Mrs Langtry on the stage. It was not to be killed there. Mr LOCKWOOD, having next addressed the Court, called Mrs Langtry. Q.—Is it true to suggest that you had determined to reject the play before you received it? A.—No. Q.—Is it true that you had put “Macbeth” in rehearsal? A.—We rehearsed it at New York three weeks afterwards. Q.— Is the part of Lady Gladys a “strong and sympathetic part?” Mr Justice CHARLES doubted whether this question could be put. Mr LOCKWOOD argued that it could, which Mr WINCH denied. Mr Justice CHARLES said, although he doubted whether the question ought to be put to the defendant, he would allow it to be answered. Mrs LANGTRY then asserted that the part of Lady Gladys was not a strong or sympathetic one. The hearing of the case was adjourned until today.

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The Daily Telegraph (22 November, 1890 - p.2)

ACTION AGAINST MRS. LANGTRY.

     The hearing of the case of Buchanan v. Langtry was resumed yesterday morning before Mr. Justice Charles and a jury in the Queen’s Bench Division of the High Court of Justice. Mr. Robert Buchanan, the dramatic author, claimed from Mrs. Langtry, the actress, the sum of £150 to complete the sum of £300 which the defendant had agreed to pay for a new modern drama, called “Lady Gladys.” Mrs. Langtry admitted the contract, but maintained that she had not bound herself to accept the drama unless the leading star part was suited to her powers and styles of acting. She also sought to recover the £150 which she had already paid to Mr. Buchanan in advance. Mr. Buchanan originally claimed damages for loss of the reputation which he might have made had the piece been produced in New York by Mrs. Langtry, but this part of the case was not proceeded with. The court was again crowded yesterday, but Mrs. Langtry, who gave her evidence on Thursday, did not put in an appearance. She was represented by Mr. Lockwood, Q.C., and her brother (Mr. Le Breton), while Mr. Winch, Q.C., and Mr. E. F. Studd were counsel for the plaintiff.
     Mr. Frederick Augustus Everill, called for the defence, and examined by Mr. Le Breton, was the first witness. He said: I live at 10, Temple-street, Knatchbull-road, and am an actor. My experience of the stage extends over something like thirty-eight years. For some years I have acted with Mrs. Langtry.
     And are you well able to form a judgment as to what part would be a strong and sympathetic part in her hands?
     Mr. Justice Charles: Perhaps that is a question—
     Mr. Winch: Of course I raise the same objection as I did yesterday.
     Mr. Justice Charles: I will note the objection.
     Examination continued: Did you read the play “Lady Gladys”?—Yes.
     Was the part of Lady Gladys in that play such a part as you would describe as a strong, emotional, and sympathetic part for Mrs. Langtry?—No.
     Was it a part in which she would have had the slightest chance of success?—No.
     Mr. Justice Charles: That must be a matter for conjecture.
     Mr. Lockwood: I respectfully agree with your lordship’s observation, and feel that I am only entitled to the answer already given.
     Mr. Winch: Then in that case I have nothing to ask.
     Mr. Lockwood: Oh; there is one point I would like to ask you about, Mr. Everill. You have a diary for 1888 in which you put down the various engagements you fulfilled in that year?
     Witness: Yes.
     Mrs. Langtry has told the Court that she received the MS. at Toronto. On what date were you at Toronto?—From Nov. 29 to Dec. 7.
     When did you open at New York?—On Jan. 7. “Peril” ran one week, then “As in a Looking Glass” ran to the 19th, and “Macbeth” opened on the 21st.
     Up to what date did you play at the Fifth Avenue Theatre?—March 7.
     Mr. Justice Charles: How long was that run?—Three and a half weeks, and then an odd night or two.
     By Mr. Lockwood: I suppose an original three-act comedy would be a great attraction at New York?—Certainly.
     Even the immortal bard would not draw as successfully?—Not at the Fifth Avenue.
     Mr. Lockwood: With every respect for William. (Laughter.)
     Cross-examined by Mr. Winch: Were “Peril” and “As in a Looking Glass” old plays which you had played over and over again in your company?—Yes.
     And the real intention was to bring out “Macbeth” on Jan. 7?—No; we had to hurry up “Macbeth.”
     Did you not put on “Peril” and “As in a Looking Glass” because you were not ready with “Macbeth”?—Quite so.
     If you had been ready with “Macbeth” you would have begun with it on the 7th?—We could not get it ready.
     But if you had been ready you would have begun it on the 7th?—I don’t think that was Mrs. Langtry’s intention. She was anxious to produce a new piece.
     The piece that Mrs. Langtry was anxious to appear in was “Macbeth,” as Lady Macbeth, was it not?—I don’t know.
     Re-examined by Mr. Lockwood: I suppose you have to look a little way ahead in theatrical matters?—Yes.
     Mr. Lockwood: That is all the evidence I propose to offer, my lord.
     Mr. Justice Charles: Upon that evidence the real question is whether the plaintiff entered into a contract to supply the defendant with a play which should include a part that, in the opinion of the defendant, was a sympathetic part.
     Mr. Lockwood; But her opinion was not to be final.
     Mr. Justice Charles: Oh, yes.
     Mr. Lockwood: I do not suggest that. Indeed, if I did, it would not have been necessary for me to call Mr. Everill.
     Mr. Justice Charles: I think myself that, upon this evidence, that is the only point which can be possibly left to the jury—whether, in fact, the contract was that the play should be one of which she approved.
     Mr. Lockwood: And was suited to the styles and powers of acting of the defendant.
     Mr. Justice Charles: The whole of your evidence is that in her judgment it was unsuited to her, and that is corroborated by one of her company.
     Mr. Lockwood: Mr. Everill’s is an independent judgment.
     Mr. Justice Charles: The question for the jury is whether Mr. Buchanan undertook to write a play for Mrs. Langtry which should include a part which was strong and which was also sympathetic in her hands; and, if so, whether Mr. Buchanan has fulfilled his contract.
     Mr. Lockwood: I should say that it is not for Mrs. Langtry to determine whether the part was suited to her, but that it is for gentlemen in the position of Mr. Everill, who know her powers as an actress and who have experience in such matters, to say whether the part would suit her.
     Mr. Justice Charles: That leaves it in a very unsatisfactory state, Mr. Lockwood, because, if her opinion was not to be taken as decisive, one would have supposed that something more would be laid before us to enable us to form a judgement.
     Mr. Lockwood: As to the play, my lord?
     Mr. Justice Charles: Yes. It is quite clear that it would be useless to trouble the jury by reading the play to them, because the contract now contended for does not depend at all upon whether I thought, or they thought, that her part was a good one. It would be  almost impossible for us to form a judgment upon that. I do not think this is a similar case as the one to which you referred yesterday when Mr. Herman Merivale’s play was under discussion.
     Mr. Lockwood: I did not allude to that case as being on all-fours with this, but merely to point out that that play was read to the jury.
     Mr. Justice Charles: I do not think it would be useful for the jury to hear this play read, and I am quite sure they don’t want to hear it read. (Laughter.) Such a task would be next door to impossible, for anyone with the slightest acquaintance with dramatic literature knows perfectly well that a book when read in the study very frequently gives no indication of how it will act on the stage. My own opinion is that there is no evidence to go to the jury, but I should like to ask you whether you regard it as a part of the bargain that the play should be one which in Mrs. Langtry’s judgment should be suited to her.
     Mr. Lockwood: Of course your lordship will leave such questions to the jury as your lordship thinks fit, but I am suggesting that the questions for their consideration are first of all, whether that was a term of the contract, and, secondly, if so, whether it has been fulfilled. I do not present the case, and never have, as one in which Mrs. Langtry’s judgment was to be final and decisive.
     Mr. Justice Charles: I propose to ask them, whether, what passed on Sept. 13, was a part of the bargain, and if so, whether that bargain has been fulfilled.
     Mr. Lockwood then addressed the jury on behalf of the defendant. He said the two questions which he understood his Lordship intended to leave to them were, first, as to whether the conversation deposed to by Mrs. Langtry was in fact part of the bargain between herself and Mr. Buchanan; and, secondly, supposing they should be of opinion that that was so, whether Mr. Buchanan had carried out his bargain with her. The first step in the inquiry was for them to satisfy themselves that there was a conversation between Mrs. Langtry and Mr. Buchanan on Sept. 13. It was a very odd circumstance that when Mr. Buchanan himself had an opportunity in his examination in chief of detailing his account of the transaction there was no reference whatever to anything which took place on Sept. 13; but they found Mr. Buchanan, by his particulars, stated that the contract was one partly verbal and partly in writing, and being pressed as to the verbal part of it, he said it depended upon conversations which took place on Sept. 13 and Sept. 14. He hoped to show conclusively by the letter of Mr. Buchanan himself, that on Sept. 14 the defendant stated that he was recapitulating an agreement previously entered into between Mrs. Langtry and himself. The question was, When could this have happened? There was only one time suggested—Sept. 13. In his letter Mr. Buchanan said, “I herewith acknowledge receipt of your letter of this date, recapitulating our agreement as follows,” and in his last paragraph he said, “To all this I once more agree.” When had he done it before? On Sept. 13 in the conversation with her. If, said his learned friend, Mrs. Langtry considered this so important, why did she not see that it was included in the written agreement? Mrs Langtry was a lady, and was unacquainted with all the principles of law and evidence which would guide a professional man in drawing up a contract. She copied what Mr. Buchanan had written out for her.
     Mr. Buchanan (from the well of the court): Nothing of the sort.
     Mr. Lockwood (warmly): I must ask this gentleman to keep quiet. I may be contradicted from the proper place, but not from where he is now sitting. On Sept. 13 there was this conversation.
     Mr. Justice Charles: There is no doubt that the conversation took place; the question is whether it is part of the contract.
     Mr. Lockwood said he was endeavouring to show the jury how the conversation related to the contract. In the letter of Sept. 14, copied by Mrs. Langtry, she said: “I accept your offer to write me a modern drama in not less than four acts, with a leading star part for myself.” If her story were true, Mr. Buchanan had already accepted the responsibility of writing a part which should be strong for her, and it was not necessary for her to go further, and insist that the whole of the conversation should be given. Supposing the jury were of opinion that the conversation took place, and accepted the version given by Mrs. Langtry, the question to be put to them was whether or not it was part of the contract. Let them look at the probability of the matter. Mrs. Langtry was to pay a considerable sum of money for that which might or might not prove a remunerative investment for her. Was it or was it not a probable thing that in making a bargain of that description she should impress upon Mr. Buchanan that the play which was to be produced for her must contain a part which was sympathetic for her, in which she would be enabled to succeed? Was it probable that she should insist upon that as the term of contract? Was it improbable that Mr. Buchanan should accept such terms? The whole balance of probability was in favour of the contention that Mr. Buchanan, having, as he naturally had, great faith in his own powers, had no doubt as to being able to fulfil the requirements of Mrs. Langtry. The play was turned out in a commendably short time, and the fear was whether it was not turned out too quickly from the manufactory. The learned counsel went on to repudiate the suggestion that Mrs. Langtry’s determination was to get rid of the play when it reached her in America. What better chance of theatrical success, he asked, than to open in New York with an original comedy having at its head a name as well known as that of Mr. Buchanan? Mrs. Langtry, in arranging to play “Macbeth,” did that which was done every day in theatrical management; she looked ahead, and contemplated that if Mr. Buchanan’s play was not a success, “Macbeth” should be substituted. Mrs. Langtry had only done as all other theatrical managers did in such matters. It had been stated that Mr. Buchanan was not the first author Mrs. Langtry had had disputes with. He (Mr. Lockwood) wished, however, that he was in a position to call Mr. Bancroft before them, to give evidence. What was the story as they now knew it? Mr. Haddon Chambers made a claim against Mrs. Langtry, and she thereupon offered a certain sum of money, but ultimately the matter came before Mr. Bancroft as arbitrator, and he decided that Mrs. Langtry had made ample offer for any claim against her. Supposing he (Mr. Lockwood) had brought up as ghosts occasions when Mr. Buchanan had failed to produce a successful play on the stage! Supposing he had spoken of “Sweet Nancies,” “Sixth Commandments,” and “Struggles for Life”! (Laughter). Mrs. Langtry had nothing whatever to be ashamed of in that transaction, as her conduct had been approved by the gentleman who acted as arbitrator. Turning to the question as to whether or not this was a strong and sympathetic part, he agreed with his Lordship that this should not be a question for Mrs. Langtry alone. They had heard the nature of the play. He was not disputing that there might be actresses who would be able to fill this extremely unpleasant situation with success. Mrs. Langtry saw that the part was one in which she could not succeed. Mr. Buchanan knew perfectly well the kind of actress for whom he wrote. Mr. Buchanan knew well the direction of her talents. Part of the contract was that the piece should be strong and sympathetic, and he submitted that Mr. Buchanan had not fulfilled that part of the contract.
     Mr. Winch, addressing the jury for the plaintiff, said he was extremely glad that the only point on which his learned friend had censured him was the introduction of the previous repudiation of a play by Mrs. Langtry. His learned friend had, however, introduced a great number of topics, not as answers to the action, but to prejudice the minds of the jury. A dog had been introduced by his learned friend in order to draw their minds from the real question. They had not, however, followed that dog. With his unrivalled powers of turning anything into ridicule, his learned friend had read part of the play. He had taken some of the conversation of an idiotic old Major, and had no difficulty in making the major appear a drivelling idiot. It might have been the intention of the author to make the character of the Major that of a drivelling idiot. It was impossible to read a play in the way adopted by his learned friend. He remembered a part in which a young man had great success, although the only observation that appeared in his part of the play was, “Look at my red socks.” (Laughter). The actor made a wonderful thing of this by the manner in which he drew attention to his socks. To read a bit of a play was not the way to criticise it, though if his learned friend would read the same extracts in the interests of Mr. Buchanan, he was sure that the Major’s part would be received with acclamation. But the real question for the jury was the contract of September. What was the position at that time? Mrs. Langtry was not personally acquainted with Mr. Buchanan, but knew him by reputation as a successful playwright—with, as his learned friend had said, failures. Even successful advocates had failures, and he was the best who had the fewest. Mr. Buchanan was admittedly an artist of high degree, and a play by him would at any time command its price. Could they believe that Mr. Buchanan would be foolish enough to enter into a bargain to agree to write a play of which Mrs. Langtry should be the sole judge whether or not it fulfilled the terms of the contract? No one had suggested that the play was not strong and sympathetic except Mrs. Langtry. The jury were asked to state that Mr. Buchanan, having gauged the mental capacities of Mrs. Langtry, undertook to write a play, and leave her alone to decide whether or not it was suited to her. Such a proposition was monstrous and incredible. His learned friend said that Mrs. Langtry had written the contract herself, and that she could hardly be expected to put into it the precise terms which would be inserted by a lawyer. But Mrs. Langtry was a woman of business, and had on many occasions shown her capability for business, and there could be no doubt that she was quite equal to looking after her own interests. Mr. Buchanan agreed to write a leading star part, but there was nothing in the contract to show that the part was to be specially suited to Mrs. Langtry. Mr. Lockwood tried to twist the words “leading star part” into a stipulation that it must, as a matter of course, have reference to Mrs. Langtry personally. It was not in dispute that in the conversation of Sept. 13 the terms were generally agreed upon, and they were reduced to writing upon the 14th. There was the contract before them, and despite its plain words they were asked to read into it a stipulation which altered its whole tenor, and was absolutely inconsistent with it. His learned friend had been severe upon Mr. Buchanan because he had suggested that it was Mrs. Langtry’s intention, before she received the play, to reject it, and to produce “Macbeth” instead. His learned friend was very indignant at the idea that dishonourable conduct should be imputed to the lady. What men would consider dishonourable ladies did not. In this case he suggested that Mrs. Langtry seemed to have acted merely out of caprice, thinking that the part of Lady Macbeth would suit her better than that of Lady Gladys, and accordingly resolved not to produce Mr. Buchanan’s play. At the very time the manuscript of the play arrived she had it in contemplation to produce “Macbeth,” for Mr. Coghlan had left the company and gone ahead to prepare for the Shakespearian revival. The defendant said that it was necessary to have a second string to her bow; but she had in reserve “Peril” and “As In a Looking Glass”; and there could, therefore, have been no necessity for her to prepare “Macbeth.” He did not impute to Mrs. Langtry dishonourable conduct, but he did say that she had thought herself at liberty to put aside this piece and to play “Macbeth,” merely because she thought that her success in that play would be greater than in the other. In conclusion, he remarked that Mr. Buchanan had the disadvantage of being plaintiff against a lady who was an actress to whom nature had been more than usually kind. He was, however, sure that the jury would not allow themselves to be influenced by personal considerations of that kind.
     Mr. Justice Charles, in summing up, said that the points involved were not of a very intricate kind. Mrs. Langtry declared that the play was not suited to her, and therefore was not according to contract. Mr. Buchanan’s account of the case was that he did engage to write a strong and sympathetic part, but he did not undertake that it should be specially suited to Mrs. Langtry. He had not thought it worth while to allow the jury to be troubled by the reading of the play, because that was practically useless as a test. There had been no controversy as to the general merit of the play. Mr. Buchanan, who was a dramatic author of skill and experience, thought it was a good play, and that it would be a good play in Mrs. Langtry’s hands; and it was not denied that it did contain a strong part. Mrs. Langtry said that no matter how good the play, or how strong the part, they would be weak in her hands. Many a play which read uncommonly well in the study acted uncommonly badly, and many a play which read badly acted well. The jury had to decide whether it was likely that Mr. Buchanan would enter into such a contract as the defendant alleged, and whether he was to put himself so entirely in her hands that unless she chose he was to get nothing for his labour, seeing that she even claimed back the £150 paid on account. The parties had reduced their contract to plain writing, and the jury must form their opinion of it. If the letter of the 14th constituted the contract there was no answer to the plaintiff’s claim. It was hardly likely that Mr. Buchanan would be prepared to work for weeks for nothing—that was what it came to—in producing a play which might be fortunate enough to suit the taste of Mrs. Langtry and her company.
     The jury at once found for the plaintiff for the sum of £150 and costs. Judgment was entered accordingly.

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Reynolds’s Newspaper (23 November, 1890)

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