Play List:

1. The Rath Boys

2. The Witchfinder

3. A Madcap Prince

4. Corinne

5. The Queen of Connaught

6. The Nine Days’ Queen

7. The Mormons

8. The Shadow of the Sword

9. Lucy Brandon

10. Storm-Beaten

11. Lady Clare

[Flowers of the Forest]

12. A Sailor and His Lass

13. Bachelors

14. Constance

15. Lottie

16. Agnes

17. Alone in London

18. Sophia

19. Fascination

20. The Blue Bells of Scotland

21. Partners

22. Joseph’s Sweetheart

23. That Doctor Cupid

24. Angelina!

25. The Old Home

26. A Man’s Shadow

27. Theodora

28. Man and the Woman

29. Clarissa

30. Miss Tomboy

31. The Bride of Love

32. Sweet Nancy

33. The English Rose

34. The Struggle for Life

35. The Sixth Commandment

36. Marmion

37. The Gifted Lady

38. The Trumpet Call

39. Squire Kate

40. The White Rose

41. The Lights of Home

42. The Black Domino

43. The Piper of Hamelin

44. The Charlatan

45. Dick Sheridan

46. A Society Butterfly

47. Lady Gladys

48. The Strange Adventures of Miss Brown

49. The Romance of the Shopwalker

50. The Wanderer from Venus

51. The Mariners of England

52. Two Little Maids from School

53. When Knights Were Bold

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THEATRE REVIEWS

28. Man and the Woman (1889)

 

Man and the Woman
by Robert Buchanan.
London: Criterion Theatre. 19 December, 1889 (matinée performance only).

Novelisation: The Wedding Ring (New York: Cassell Publishing Co., 1891). Republished as Woman and the Man (London: Chatto & Windus, 1893).
(A Prefatory Note to the novel states: “The right of dramatizing this story is reserved. A play on the subject has been written, and has been performed once for copyright purposes.”)
Film: La Donna E L’Uomo, directed by Amleto Palermi, 1923.
(This Italian adaptation of Buchanan’s novelisation of Man and the Woman, is possibly the only one of the silent films based on Buchanan’s works still in existence.)

 

The Stage (1 November, 1889 - p.9)

     Matinées galore may be shortly looked for in the West-end. The most important will be that of a new play by Robert Buchanan, in which the celebrated Australian actress, Miss Myra Kemble, will make her appearance, playing the leading rôle. Nothing further has been settled as regards the play, except that the piece will be cast with well-known persons in the parts, and everything done to ensure a “big go.”

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The Stage (22 November, 1889 - p.9)

     Many weeks ago I mentioned that a new play, by Robert Buchanan, would shortly be produced at a matinée, with Miss Myra Kemble in the leading female character. The title of the piece is Man and the Woman. The finale to the first act will, I think, be found to be novel and strong.

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The Pall Mall Gazette (26 November, 1889)

     One of the principal matinées announced for next month is that of Mr. Robert Buchanan’s new play, “Man and the Woman.” The dramatist possibly intends this as a companion work to his previous effort, “God and the Man,” which he put upon the Adelphi stage as “Stormbeaten.”

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The Morning Post (16 December, 1889 - p.2)

THEATRICAL AND MUSICAL
INTELLIGENCE.
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     This evening the successful drama, “A Man’s Shadow,” will reach its hundredth performance at the Haymarket Theatre. The play will be preceded by the late Mr. Buckstone’s comedy, “Good for Nothing,” in which Miss Norreys will appear for the first time as Nan. Other characters will be supported by Messrs. Kemble, Allan, Gurney, and Robb Harwood.
     The Australian actress, Miss Myra Kemble, will make her first appearance in this country on Thursday next, as Gillian Dartmouth in Mr. Robert Buchanan’s new play, “Man and the Woman,” which will be produced at a matinée at the Criterion Theatre on the above day. Miss Kemble—who commenced her theatrical career at the age of fifteen, played Lady Macbeth at nineteen, and was the original Lady Clancarty in Mr. Tom Taylor’s play when it was produced in Sydney—has achieved a great reputation in Australia, having appeared with success in all the principal towns.

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The Echo (20 December, 1889 - p.2)

CRITERION THEATRE.
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     What is an innocent woman wedded to a wretch beneath contempt, who has deserted her and returned simply to share her wealth, to do when she has learned to love another man, and appearances are so wofully against her that no Judge would hesitate to pronounce the decree nisi? Must she obey her husband—yield to his loathsome demands for restoration of conjugal rights? Can she live on alone, unaided by the lover, defying the husband and the world, cherishing her child? or shall she put conventionality aside, fly the country, and live in secluded bliss with the man in whose strong love she confides, faithful in her enforced infidelity, and certainly happy? These were the questions Mr. Robert Buchanan put to us yesterday afternoon in Man and the Woman. They are old enough, it is true, and have formed the basis of dozens of dramas and melodramas years before Mr. Buchanan began adapting plays. But somehow by the light of the recent controversies in which the Scottish Bard was indulged, we expected some new treatment, the enunciating of some new philosophy, the evolution of some new way out of the difficulty. To set forth the terms of his questions Mr. Buchanan gave us two clergymen, one an “old-fashioned Christian,” which, being interpreted, means an Aunt Sally of “complacent conventionality” set up for Mr. Buchanan to throw his sticks at; a squeaky little child, a seductive grass widow, a baronet, an insane Buffalo Bill cowboy with a “death’s-head” face, and a réchauffé of Lambert Streyke, the “mouldy master” of The Colonel warmed up six years after date, in whose mouth Mr. Buchanan pillories all the theories of the thinkers from whom he differs. The lady, thinking her villain-æsthetic-materialistic-sensualist-poet-painter- musician-husband dead, is about to wed the baronet, when the aforesaid spouse is discovered playing “Home, Sweet Home” on her own piano. She will not live with him — “for a woman,” says the “new-fashioned Christian” clergyman, to a cheering audience, “to live in the conjugal bonds after she ceases to love her husband and loathes him is infamy before God and man.” She will not fly with the baronet, but she does fly alone with her child, leaving her husband all the shekels. Not contented, however, he pursues her, and kidnaps the child. This brings her back, and she determines to appeal to the law, compromised or not, and see what the Judges and Mrs. Grundy have to say to her. Here the interest is about to commence, when, lo! the mad, red-shirted Texan rushes in and plants a yard or so of the weapon of bowie in the breast of the husband just in the good old Surrey-side “howler” style, and brings the curtain down on the author’s abject confession of his inability to solve the social problem he has posed. “Still she is an exceedingly fine woman,” one of the characters says of Miss Myra Kemble, the well-known Australian actress, who made her London début as the heroine. He was right, Miss Kemble has a good stage presence, excellent manner, and great knowledge and experience of her profession. In comedy she may be an Antipodean Ada Rehan; we should like to see her in comedy. Mr. Cyril Maude is a very clever young actor. His villain, a medley of Mr. Willard, Mr. Walter Patterson, Mr. Oscar Wilde, and Mr. Kyrle Bellew, was at times really wonderful; but it lacked the deadly fascination the last-named gentleman would have given.

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The Morning Post (20 December, 1889 - p.2)

CRITERION THEATRE.
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     There was no little excitement in the theatrical world yesterday owing to the début of Miss Myra Kemble, the Australian actress, in a new drama written expressly for her by Mr. Robert Buchanan, and entitled “Man and the Woman.” Miss Kemble has won considerable reputation at the Antipodes, and, from the accounts given of her, she appears to have merited these encomiums. She began early to devote her attention to the stage, having made her first appearance at the age of fifteen. At nineteen she played Lady Macbeth with acceptance, and has since appeared in a number of Shakespearean characters. She has also taken leading parts in most of the popular melodramas of the day, and is, therefore, an actress of experience. How she played the heroine of Mr. Buchanan’s drama may best be shown, perhaps, after due consideration of the play itself. “Man and the Woman” is a drama founded upon the difficult problem of a wife having married a shameful and depraved man, who treats her badly, causes her the deepest horror owing to his infamous character and detestable life, and eventually quits her and her child suddenly. She is reduced to the greatest distress—almost to starvation, but a kind, manly country curate who had known her husband befriends her. She gains other friends, and, being a woman of a self-reliant nature and winning manners, she eventually recovers her position in society, and at the death of a relative, acquiring a little fortune, her worldly life brightens, and she could be happy but for the horrible past. In the midst of her doubts and perplexities intelligence comes that her husband is dead. He has gone abroad, has lived a wild life, and the particulars of his death come in the most circumstantial way. Every detail appears conclusive, and then the wife, whose married name is O’Mara, but who has been known as Mrs. Dartmouth, consents to become the wife of a neighbour, Sir George Venables, a man of the most sincere and kindly disposition. All these facts come out in the course of an explanation which the wife insists upon giving to Sir George, but the scene opens on the day before their wedding is arranged to take place. Just in the midst of their anticipated happiness there comes first of all a strange, rough fellow, an Australian miner, who falls fainting before the door and is taken into the house and kindly treated. The poor fellow has scarcely recovered from brain fever, and tells a wild story of a man whom he has tracked to this country, having betrayed his wife and left her to die in poverty and shame. After him comes the supposed dead husband. The tale of his death had been sent to deceive his wife, but now that he learns of her having inherited some property, the selfish fellow is anxious to share it. The sight of him recalls all the misery she has suffered at his hands, and she determines never under any circumstances to yield to his pretended wish for a reconciliation. He is a miserable hypocrite. The vicar of the village is quite impressed by him, and seeks to bring about a reconciliation, while the curate, who knows the man, is disgusted, and counsels the wife to be firm. The shallow, heartless fellow sees his wife’s terror and the perplexity of her friends, and trades upon their anxiety. He shows the cloven foot. Naturally the engagement with Sir George Venables is broken off, but the baronet has such faith in the woman he loves that he will not give up hope, and he urges an appeal to the law. This the wife cannot endure, owing to shameful revelations that will be brought to light and which may blight the future life of her child, and in agony of mind she sends her husband a letter offering to give him all she possesses, and then she secretly departs from the house. But this does not entirely suit her husband’s views. He fancies she has other property than he has yet discovered, and follows her, and in order to compel her to yield, he takes away the child. But soon the mother arrives, a violent scene takes place, and she determines to appeal to the law to protect her. Meanwhile the dazed miner has been hovering about the house, and we see that a crisis is approaching. The man has recognised in the callous, heartless husband the seducer of his wife, and in a frenzied state stabs him to the heart, and the curtain falls. In considering the claims of Miss Myra Kemble, it may be stated that she is a sympathetic and earnest actress, speaking her lines with refinement and expression, and giving no little force to the emotional scenes. Her reception was flattering, and it is likely enough that in other plays her success might be still greater. Miss Ada Neilson acted with vigour as an outspoken servant, and Miss D. Harwood played agreeably as the child. Mr. Macklin as Sir George gave a pleasant impression of a kindly, manly nature; and Mr. Beauchamp was remarkably good as the high- toned vicar who cannot bring himself to believe that divorce, under any circumstances, is tolerable. Mr. Nutcombe  Gould, as the simple-minded curate, also acted well, and Mr. F. M. Paget may be credited with considerable force as the jealous and revengeful miner. But the best part in the piece was that of O’Mara, the returned husband. Mr. Cyril Maude played this part with surprising skill. He has been seen mostly in sketchy, light characters, but here he displayed unsuspected power. His conception of the sensual, selfish, hollow creature, with his plausible tongue and his pretended poetical aspirations, was masterly in the extreme. In this one character, thanks to the ability of the young actor, the audience had a treat indeed. At the close of the drama the author was called for and applauded, but the melodramatic conclusion caused less enthusiasm than might otherwise have been displayed.

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The Standard (20 December, 1889 - p.2)

CRITERION THEATRE.
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     Mr. Robert Buchanan’s Man and the Woman, produced yesterday afternoon at the Criterion Theatre, is a play with a purpose. The author desires to show that a loveless union is no union at all, even though it have the sanction of the Church; and he thus advances a proposition about which there is a good deal to be said. A wife married to a man of infamous life, or a husband married to such a woman, might find excuses to palliate much that would otherwise deserve unmitigated condemnation, were it not for one circumstance which Mr. Buchanan has forgotten—the existence of the Divorce Court. That institution is designed for the purpose of freeing men and women from an intolerable yoke under certain conditions, and it is really most essential that the trained intelligence of a judge and the presumable common sense of a jury should decide upon questions which cannot safely be left to the sole judgment of greatly interested persons. In the case of the difficulty upon which Man and the Woman is founded, for instance, Mrs. O’Mara would have had little trouble in obtaining a divorce from the heartless scoundrel she had married, and thus the problem would have been solved by the simple operation of the Statute law.
     The scene of the play is Crouchford, a small town in a district not indicated, where there lives a widow, as she is understood and believes herself to be, Mrs. Dartmouth by name. She has a small fortune, enough for herself and her child, but when the story begins she is on the way to wealth, for Sir George Venables, a country gentleman, whose estate is near the town, is about to marry her. They are devotedly attached to each other; but the day before that appointed for the wedding she insists upon telling him and the Vicar, who is to perform the ceremony, the story of her life. It is not at all a new story. She was the wife of a man named O’Mara, dissolute, selfish, heartless, and wholly contemptible. He spent her fortune, and after a career of cruelty and vice left her and her child to starve. Inheriting money, she came to England, and has lived the life her neighbours know; as for him, a report of his death in America had reached her, and she had in no way regretted it. The Vicar, Dr. Herbert, is a narrow-minded bigot; his curate, Mr. Bream, a man of excellent heart and shrewd common-sense—the former Mr. Buchanan describes as “an old-fashioned Christian,” and the latter as a “new-fashioned” one, distinctions which rather invite comment. Dr. Herbert is, indeed, a caricature. Thus, when Bream picks up a fainting man on the road, and carries him into Mrs. Dartmouth’s house, the Vicar protests that the curate is behaving more like the surgeon of the parish than like a clergyman. The fainting man, Jake Owen, has come in search of the villain who betrayed his wife—and after what he has heard of O’Mara it is at once suspected that he must be the man. Oddly enough, “the long arm of coincidence,” as it was called in a recent play, brings O’Mara also to the house where, after charming the too simple Vicar by his suavity and accomplishments, he is comfortably seated at the piano (from which, by the way, he does not rise, but continues to sit and play), when his wife enters, and they recognise each other. The scenes which take place between the indignant woman and the cynical, cold-blooded man are of a nature that may be imagined, and need not be described in detail. His hypocrisy imposes only on the Vicar, whose simplicity is childish, but O’Mara can insult and wound his wife by affected suspicions of her conduct, and frighten her by threats to claim their child. In the end, just as he is leaving the house, insolently glorying in the strength of his legal position, he meets the man he has injured, risen from a bed of fever, and the wrong is avenged with the betrayer’s life.
     Man and the Woman provided an opportunity for the first appearance in England of an Australian actress, Miss Myra Kemble, who played the heroine, Gillian Dartmouth. Miss Kemble has evidently had long experience of the stage, and turns it to excellent account. The earnestness of her manner creates interest in Gillian’s fate, and she shows forcibly the indignation of the injured woman and the passionate love of the mother. The character received full justice at Miss Kemble’s hands. Mr. Cyril Maude, as O’Mara, was inclined to overdo the cynicism of that unworthy personage. He was far too obviously a hypocrite, but most of his scenes were otherwise effectively treated, and apart from the over emphasis of the humorous side of the character, he presented a clever study. Mr. Macklin was a manly representation of Sir George Venables, and Mr. Nutcombe Gould gave point and pertinence to the part of Bream. Mr. John Beauchamp, doubtless, carried out the author’s views as the Vicar. A very powerful performance of Jake Owen, the wronged husband, was given by Mr. F. M. Paget, and Miss Ada Neilson was highly successful as the heroine’s faithful and devoted servant, Barbara Leigh. The play was well received. Whether it is likely to attract evening audiences is a question which, happily, the critic has not to answer.

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The Scotsman (20 December, 1889 - p.5)

LONDON THEATRICALS

     LONDON, Thursday night.—The versatility of Mr Robert Buchanan is, as Dominie Sampson would have said, “prodigious.” Not content with writing original plays and poems, adapting from the French, and from Richardson and Fielding, with publishing articles, abusing dramatic critics, and indicting letters on the marriage laws in a daily paper, he now comes forward with a play on the latter subject, which is a sufficiently startling production. “Man and the Woman,” a new play in three acts by Mr Buchanan, was given at a morning performance at the Criterion Theatre this afternoon. The piece is a play with a purpose, and, like others of that class, there is a good deal more attention paid on the part of the dramatist to the particular social “fad” he wishes to exploit than to the dramatic capabilities of his story. The plot of the piece is a simple and conventional one. The heroine, Gillian Dartmouth, has married a thorough-paced blackguard, who commits every crime under the sun, amd finally deserts his wife—who is only too thankful to be rid of him—leaving her with one child. This happens in America, and Gillian comes home and prospers, some money having been left her, and wins the love of a certain Sir George Venables, a gallant young baronet, who desires nothing better than to be allowed to make her his wife. So far the story runs smoothly enough, but the common-sense of the audience revolts against the needless scruples of the heroine, who, honestly believing her husband to be dead, questions a clergyman as a matter of conscience as to whether she should marry again or not. This gives rise to a great deal of tedious sermonising and delays the action of the piece in a very exasperating fashion. Just before the wedding the heroine’s worthless husband turns up and in the most brutal fashion insists upon claiming his conjugal rights by taking the one child of the marriage, and, in short, shows himself to be as much a brute as he was in days gone by. Thus we enter upon a prolonged contest between the husband and wife, during which we are treated to long and epigrammatic discussions on the marriage laws of the country, and any amount of scorn is heaped upon those who hold that a woman is in any way bound to a man who does not treat her well. Never, indeed, even in any French play, was so much vituperation bestowed upon the bare idea of the sanctity of marriage. In vain the wife is reminded of her duty. That is to say, she is told she should return to her wretched husband; but the answer is “duty is sometimes another name for immorality,” and in view of the brutal husband, and the innocent wife, the audience applaud the sentiment to the echo. Mr Buchanan has laid his colour on with a lavish hand. A more despicable scoundrel than Philip O’Mara, the heroine’s husband, was never depicted on any stage, and one feels an intense loathing for him whenever he appears on the scene. Similarly, the heroine is a charming woman, and the audience sympathise duly with her. At the same time, the play would have been much more effective had there been a little more dramatic action and a little less sermonising; more development of character and not so much chopping logic on the subject of the marriage laws. It is granted that Mr Buchanan has pushed his argument home with indubitable force, has preached his sermon with a power too rare in the pulpit; but people do not go to the theatre to be argued with or to be preached at, and the dramatist is lost in the teacher. We are not concerned with the ethical law broached here. All we say is, that “the play’s the thing,” and we do not trouble ourselves about the king’s conscience. The rest of the story is easily told. The returned husband, after causing his wife much misery, is murdered by an individual whose wife he has wronged in old days, this person having hovered about all through the piece to bring about this particular bit of vengeance, as the audience foresees from the very first. The representation was a good one. Mr Macklin made a very manly representative of the baronet who would gladly marry the heroine, and Mr Cyril Maude acted with indubitable cleverness and much subtle insight into character as the worthless husband. He reminded one here and there of Mr Herman Vezin. Mr John Beauchamp, with a “make-up” which recalled the face of the Archbishop of Canterbury, was excellent as a canting clergyman; while the part of a muscular and genuinely Christian curate was admirably rendered by Mr Nutcombe Gould, an actor whose stage work is remarkable for the rare artistic qualities of finish, of force, and of reticence. Miss Myra Kemble, who comes to us from Australia, was a pleasant and capable representative of the heroine, and Miss Ada Neilson acted with much vigour as a good-hearted farm woman. The performance was received with much favour, and Mr Buchanan bowed his acknowledgments at the conclusion in response to a unanimous call.

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The Times (20 December, 1889 - p.6)

THE CRITERION.

     At a matinée at this theatre yesterday a new play from the pen of Mr. Robert Buchanan was presented to the public. In many respects satisfying and strong, this work is nevertheless disappointing in one essential particular. It propounds a problem which it leaves unsolved. The difficulties which surround the characters are, it is true, removed before the curtain descends, but only by the introduction of a deus ex machinâ. Thus the hopes that have been raised that some new solution of an old theme is about to be revealed are dashed to the ground, and the spectator leaves with a feeling of dissatisfaction because his expectations have been baulked. If, however, Mr. Buchanan’s purpose was merely to draw attention anew to the cruel plight of a woman who is married to a scoundrel from whom she cannot free herself, it must be allowed that he has carried it out forcibly and with telling effect. Whether some of the delicate questions involved in loveless matrimony are not dealt with in too free and virile a fashion for the stage is a matter about which there may well be difference of opinion. The author here certainly does not sing pueris virginibusque. In the first act of Man and the Woman we are introduced to a betrothed couple, Sir George Venables and Gilian Dartmouth, a lady who imagines herself to be the widow of a man who has insulted, ill-used, and abandoned her. She has had some moral scruples as to the propriety of remarriage, but they have been allayed without much difficulty by a friendly curate of broad views, and the hour for the wedding is fixed, when an unwelcome visitor appears—none other than the husband who is thought to be dead. He is a polished rogue, of a pseudo-artistic turn, who prates hypocritically about the loveliness of morality and elects to be a High Church man because “Dissent is so unbeautiful.” As his wife, unconscious of his presence, enters the room, he demonstrates the heartless cynicism of his character by playing “Home, Sweet Home” on the piano before which he is sitting.
     The curtain descends upon an effective situation, and then, in the second act, we see the husband endeavouring to assert authority over his wife and making conjugal plans, which she, mindful of his past conduct, rejects with abhorrence. Finally, she decides to fly, and taking her child, of whom her husband has threatened to deprive her, goes forth to seek a place of concealment. Sudden illness, however, prevents her from travelling far, and she is discovered. The child is taken home by the father, and maternal love prevailing, the wife returns also. The problem, therefore, still remains. What is she to do? Is she to live with a man she loathes, parted from another whom she loves? This and the alternative questions that arise were the points upon which the audience expected enlightenment in a novel way, and here it was that the sense of disappointment supervened, for the end is reached by the well-worn expedient of killing the husband, who is stabbed to death by the relative of a woman whom he has dishonoured. The chief merit of the play lies in the dialogue, which is often satirically pungent. In his characterization the author has also scored a success, the contrast between a narrow-minded vicar and a curate of large and manly views being exceptionally good. The drawing of the husband, a droll mixture of æstheticism and villainy, is also original. The matinée served the double purpose of introducing a new play and an actress new to the London boards. Miss Myra Kemble, who comes from Australia, appeared in the part of the injured wife, and acted with care and discretion. Her hold over the audience would have been firmer if she had abandoned herself a little more freely to the emotional requirements of the character, but her acting was never wanting in sympathetic tenderness. Mr. Cyril Maude appeared to great advantage as the husband, and Mr. Nutcombe Gould was excellent as the curate, appearance, voice, and manner combining to produce a faultless picture. Mr. John Beauchamp and Mr. F.  M. Paget also acquitted themselves well as the vicar and the avenging relative respectively. At the close of the performance Miss Myra Kemble and the author were called before the curtain to receive the congratulations of the spectators.

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The Daily News (20 December, 1889)

CRITERION THEATRE.

     Mr. Robert Buchanan’s new play “Man and the Woman,” in which Miss Myra Kemble, an actress who, although unknown in this country, comes with excellent credentials from Australia, made her appearance yesterday afternoon at the Criterion Theatre, has at least one great and sovereign merit. It introduces the playgoer to an entirely new type of melodramatic villain. Instead of rolling his eyes about and showing his teeth so that the very dogs must needs bark at him, as stage villains have been wont to do from time out of mind, this one reminds us of Tennyson’s “character,” with the “lack-lustre dead blue eye,” who “said the earth was beautiful.” He is all culture and poetic rapture. To him the sight of a husbandman sowing seed brings tears into the eyes, and the common objects of the field or garden move him to ecstacy. Nor is he without a certain frankness—the frankness that owns to misdeeds and makes lip professions of penitence. He plays “ a little” and paints “a little;” there is no elegant occupation, in short, in which he does not dabble. This rascally but not unamusing personage has deserted his wife and child, and otherwise misconducted himself, and returns after many years, during which he has spread a report of his own death, to quarter himself upon the woman whom he has so cruelly used, just as she is about to become the wife of another. Such is the situation of affairs to which the title of the piece has reference. That title may reasonably be supposed to indicate the fact that the author has had what is called a “purpose” in view. But does Mr. Buchanan seriously mean to allege that the woman, whose husband has betrayed and deserted her for many years, cannot get the marriage tie dissolved? Or failing that, is it reasonable to assume that the Married Women’s Property Act is a dead letter? Surely neither proposition could be seriously maintained. There remains, then, nothing but the natural dislike of a public scandal and exposure to preclude the woman from obtaining redress, and this being so, the problem is a totally different one from that which is apparently suggested. All that can be held to be established is that she who marries a profligate and a hypocrite is likely to suffer inconveniences from doing so—a proposition which surely does not need to be enforced. But audiences, after all, care little for social or legal theories. What they want is a story which arouses their interest and sympathy, and it is from this point of view therefore that a play must in reality be judged. Unquestionably there is in this respect much in Mr. Buchanan’s latest effort to commend it, but it has one almost fatal defect. From the very beginning of the action no room from doubt is left as to how matters will  end. The spectator feels that the rough-looking man who has come all the way from South America to avenge the betrayer of his sister may be confidently reckoned upon at the proper season—that is to say, just before the fall of the curtain, to kill the husband and set the wife free to marry the man of her choice. If “Man and the Woman” is to be a popular success, this will be due in fact mainly to the remarkably clever characterisation by which it is distinguished. The contrast, for instance, between the vicar of the old school, who quotes the Fathers, and his go-ahead young curate, who is the broadest and most tolerant of Churchmen, is depicted with very humorous effect. Sufficient has already been said of the character of the villain, which was represented by Mr. Cyril Maude with rare power and originality. Altogether, this was a really remarkable study on the part of the actor, full of subtle suggestions of hypocrisy and sordid motives, and a certain pride of intellectual superiority. Miss Myra Kemble made a decidedly favourable impression. Her pathos is natural, her diction easy and correct. The part of the wife, however, was a trying one, involving much controversial declamation and few opportunities for the display of the higher emotions. The reception accorded to the play was favourable, and Mr. Buchanan bowed his acknowledgments from the stage at its conclusion.

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St. James’s Gazette (20 December, 1889 - p.11)

MR. BUCHANAN’S NEW PLAY.

     Apart from the Buchananisms which always find their way into Mr. Buchanan’s work and occasionally spoil what is nearly good in it, there was much to praise and little to blame in “Man and the Woman,” the new play which made its trial trip at a Criterion matinée yesterday (before it is put on the evening bill of another theatre—possibly the Vaudeville) and which served to introduce Miss Myra Kemble, an actress who is understood to have a considerable reputation in Australia. Let us speak of the lady before we discuss the play. Her acting was refined and intelligent; she made every point, and made it well; she has studied her art and succeeded in it. But she is not going to take the town by storm although she may fairly claim to stand by the side of all but our very best actresses. She was eclipsed yesterday by the fine performance of Mr. Cyril Maude; he and Mr. Buchanan have laid their heads together and have enriched the stage with an entirely new kind of villain—a modern Tito Mattei, a better gentleman but a worse rascal. Having betrayed and deserted his wife, having disappeared for the traditional seven long years, and having reappeared only when she is comfortably established and has learned to love another, he boldly makes love, this plausible wretch, to the woman who knows his vileness; and he makes it so well that the audience are unable to be sure in their minds whether he is really feeling or only pretending to feel a renewed passion for the woman whom he has wronged and intends to plunder.
     The other parts were well acted; the honest lover of a wife believed to be a widow (Mr. F. H. Macklin); the high-and-dry Dean with a leaning towards “the symbolic aspect of religion” (Mr. John Beauchamp); and the earnest young Broad Church curate with an indiscreet readiness to set other people’s affairs straight (Mr. Nutcombe Gould). It is a pity that Mr. Buchanan has made these clerical gentlemen argue upon matters which neither he nor they quite understand, and which people do not go to the theatre to hear about. If he had only cut out these parts of the dialogue, he might be congratulated on having written a thoroughly good play—vigorous, interesting, clever in dialogue, full of human nature, with characters clear and distinct, and with the incidents following one upon another just as they ought to follow, each as the consequence of the other, never coming quite as a surprise yet never foreseen until just as they are about to happen. From distant parts of the world Mr. Buchanan has brought all his characters together at such a time and in such a way that the coincidences are only such as one meets in real life. The seriousness of the drama does not make it dull, because Mr. Cyril Maude is always amusing in his plausible wickedness. With an inferior actor the play might have been almost a failure instead of winning a success which ought to save it from the usual fate of matinée productions. A little knowledge of the law may be dangerous: but if any of the people in Mr. Buchanan’s play had possessed it, the play could never have been written. Mrs. O’Mara had a clear case for Mr. Justice Butt, and her husband would not have been fool enough to defend it. And surely one of her friends—her country-gentleman lover or her curate champion—must have heard that certain Acts have been passed which are called the Married Women’s Property Acts—acts with which most married ladies who happen to be propertied show themselves to be perfectly familiar when their husbands propose to play ducks and drakes with dear papa’s money.

cuttlefish1

[From The Pall Mall Gazette (20 December, 1889).]

 

The Globe (20 December, 1889 - p.6)

“MAN AND THE WOMAN.”

     Depending rather upon character and situation than upon incident, “Man and the Woman,” Mr. Robert Buchanan’s new play, makes fairly direct appeal to an intelligent and a perceptive audience. Its reception yesterday afternoon at the Criterion, where it served the purpose of introducing to a London public Miss Myra Kemble, an Australian actress, was favourable, and the friendly verdict that was pronounced was justifiable in all respects. Whether the piece is robust  and concentrated enough to hold its place in the regular bills of a theatre may be doubted. It is, however, a well conceived and carefully planned work that will add to its author’s reputation, it furnishes opportunity for good action, and it has one highly ingenious and effective situation. Its main lines are quite simple and familiar as well as passably melodramatic. Believing her first husband, who has been guilty of such offences as can only be hinted at, not named, to be dead, Gillian Dartmouth is on the point of espousing Sir George Venables, a country gentleman. On the day before that fixed for her second marriage her husband turns up to assert his rights. Fortunately for the repose of the audience, the deliverer of the heroine, a miner whose wife the new comer has betrayed and abandoned, appears at the same time. Bane and antidote being thus provided, the sufferings of the heroine, whose child is stolen from her, and who undergoes manifold species of torment, are no more than can be seen with equanimity, and when at the last moment the triumph of villainy seems assured a well=planted blow with the miner’s knife kills the husband and prepares the way for the heroine’s second nuptials. All this is conventional enough. It is saved, however, from the commonplace by the characterisation. Philip O’Mara, as the husband is called, is no ordinary scoundrel. He is a species of Leigh Hunt, as that poet and essayist presented himself to the eyes of his political enemies, a man plausible and cultivated, pleading in excuse of his misdeeds his worship of beauty, and prating about the loveliness of flowers and trees while plotting crimes of the deepest dye. More interesting almost than the persecution of the heroine by this unscrupulous and æsthetical ruffian is the strife between a pedantic and dogmatic vicar who espouses his side, and a straightforward and manly young curate, who becomes the champion of the wife. With these and other well-imagined people taking part in it, the scrimmage is interesting and stimulating. Good play is, moreover, made with a young child, whose reception of his unknown and smooth-tongued father brings about the best situation of the drama. Much of the dialogue is natural and telling, and the whole leaves behind it a favourable impression.
     The acting is good throughout. Miss Myra Kemble has an expressive face, a good and musical voice, and adequate training. Her sufferings are conventional, and no great opportunity is accordingly presented. It is the more to the credit of the actress, accordingly, that she stirred and pleased the audience. Miss Ada Neilson was vigorous and natural as a Yorkshire servant. As Philip O’Mara, the husband, Mr. Cyril Maude played admirably. The occasional glimpses of ferocity that he flashed from behind a mask of gentleness and poetic aspiration were very telling, and the entire performance was clever and capable. Mr. F. H. Macklin played with the quiet earnestness he has developed of late. Mr. John Beauchamp’s High Church clergyman was free from any suspicion of exaggeration or caricature, and Mr. Nutcombe Gould was good in all respects as his earnest and somewhat mutinous curate. Mr. F. M. Paget did also well as a rough miner bent on vengeance, and Mr. Gilbert as an innkeeper was included in a more than usually satisfactory cast.

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The Era (21 December, 1889)

“MAN AND THE WOMAN.”
_____

Drama, in Three Acts, by Robert Buchanan.
First Produced at the Criterion Theatre Dec. 19th.

Sir George Venables, Bart. ...    Mr F. H. MACKLIN
Rev. Dr. Herbert             ... ...     Mr JOHN BEAUCHAMP
Rev. Mr Bream              ... ...    Mr NUTCOMBE GOULD
Philip O’Mara                ... ...    Mr CYRIL MAUDE
Jake Owen                      ... ...     Mr F. M. PAGET
Gillian Dartmouth            ... ...    Miss MYRA KEMBLE
Barbara Leigh                  ... ...     Miss ADA NEILSON
Little Dora                      ... ...    Miss D. HARWOOD

     Favourable reports had gone abroad as to the abilities of Miss Myra Kemble, an actress who has gained considerable fame at the Antipodes, and much curiosity and interest attached in consequence to her appearance at the Criterion Theatre on Thursday afternoon, the occasion being rendered important, also, by the production of a new three- act drama, by Mr Robert Buchanan, entitled Man and the Woman, written expressly for Miss Kemble. Let us see first of all what Mr Buchanan has done with a subject which, has so often taxed the ingenuity of the best French authors, and which has recently attracted attention owing to his own comments upon a theme which although as “old as the hills,” will never fail in interest while human nature remains what it is. Mr Buchanan when the curtain rises does not keep the audience long in suspense as to his method. The few opening sentences give a clue to what must inevitably follow. Mrs Gillian Dartmouth is a lady supposed to be a widow who is living with her little daughter in a remote village, and is engaged to a wealthy neighbour, Sir George Venables. It is the day before their proposed marriage, and Mrs Dartmouth is not easy in her mind until she has made a full statement to her future husband respecting her past life. She had married when very young a man who had proved a shameless, degraded creature; a man of ability, taste, and culture, but destitute of a single manly or earnest impulse, a man who gave up his whole soul to sensual and depraved tastes, yet able to impress others by his polished manner, his smooth tongue, and his professions of religion and a pretence of refined enjoyment of art and nature. This man early in their married life had suddenly quitted his wife and child, leaving them destitute, almost starving, and had been heard of no more until a very circumstantial account is received by the wife of his death. She could not doubt the statement, it seemed so convincing, so accurate in its details; and then, yielding to the earnest solicitations of Sir George she promises to become his wife. The baronet does not wish to hear this story, but Mrs Dartmouth insists. It does not change his affection in the least, and all is arranged for the marriage next day. Then an incident occurs which throws a passing cloud over them. A rough, strange fellow is discovered in a fainting state at the door, and is taken into the house, and a surgeon sent for. The man is, it appears, recovering from brain fever, but is in a miserable state. He proves to be an Australian miner, who has married the sister of Mrs Dartmouth’s servant, and he tells a sad story of his wife’s betrayal by a man he has traced to England. After him comes another visitor, a man of a very different type—in fact, the returned husband so often seen in modern melodrama. But in this case Mr Buchanan had certainly provided an original personage. The heroine has already told us his character, and we know what kind of a person he will be. He is as smooth, as false, as treacherous as ever. The story of his death was a fiction, invented to deceive his wife. But, when he learns that she has inherited some property, the wretch is quite willing to share it, and seeing his wife still youthful-looking and attractive he proposes she should “forget and forgive.” Mr Philip O’Mara is quite willing “to let bygones be bygones.” He makes friends with the polished vicar, who is quite attracted by his religious views, and who endeavours to bring about a reconciliation, as he cherishes a horror of divorce. But the curate, who has known O’Mara years ago, and who befriended the poor neglected wife, advises her not to put any trust in his promises. Thus the matter stands until O’Mara begins to get impatient. He makes advances to his wife, which are fiercely repelled, to his little daughter, but the child is afraid of a man who, while smiling sweetly, has an almost fiendish expression. Finding himself backed up by the vicar, O’Mara says—“I do not entreat an interview with my wife; I demand it.” He says how he loved her, and the curate reminds him that he had basely deserted her. Then the returned husband tries sentiment. He “still retains the old illusions. He delights in books, he loves flowers, and the prattle of a sweet child.” But the wife is obdurate. “Why remind me of those little indiscretions which caused occasional misunderstandings,” asks the scoundrel, but nothing will move her, and finding she will have no peace, and dreading the scandal of an appeal to the law, she secretly departs, leaving a note for O’Mara, giving him all she possesses if he will not further molest her. Next we see him in possession of her pretty home, but he still fancies something more is to be gained by pressure, and, with the aid of the village innkeeper, discovers her retreat and takes away the child. The mother follows quickly. There is a fierce scene of anguish on her side and scorn on his. The friends come to the conclusion that it will be best for her to obtain the protection of the law. But Mr Buchanan has “another way,” as the cookery books say. The wandering miner has recognised in Mr O’Mara the betrayer of his wife, and in the midst of the circle stabs him to the heart, and the drama ends. This incident was of too melodramatic a character to be in harmony with other portions of the play, and the conclusion would have been much more impressive if the wretched husband had been killed out of sight of the audience. Mr Buchanan must be commended for a vigorous and generally interesting drama. As for the solution of the marriage question, that is as far off as ever, and we need not discuss it. The knife, the revolver, or a dose of poison sometimes settle the difficulty in real life, but the after consequences are not agreeable when the police are called in. The performance was a good one, especially so as regards Miss Kemble and Mr Cyril Maude. The lady has many excellent qualities as an actress; she speaks gracefully and clearly, without any disagreeable accent. She has a pleasant, lady-like appearance, and is fully equal to any emotional demands. Indeed, her passionate acting in several scenes impressed the audience with a sense of power which may be even more effectively shown when she is free from nervousness. Miss Kemble’s reception was of the most cordial character, and she may be pronounced a most interesting and intelligent actress. Miss Ada Neilson gave considerable emphasis to the character of a servant, and Miss D. Harwood acted prettily as the little girl. Mr Macklin represented the baronet pleasantly. The character is rather a difficult one to make interesting, but Mr Macklin played it well. Mr John Beauchamp gave a finished rendering of the pedantic vicar, looking well and acting admirably. Mr Nutcombe Gould as the muscular curate, a character reminding us of Kingsley’s heroes, was very effective; and praise must be given to Mr F. M. Paget for an earnest rendering of a disagreeable part, that of the jealous miner. Mr Cyril Maude as the returned husband made a distinct advance as an actor. If he plays the part again he will be able to polish it a little, but he gave a conception of the character at once forcible, intelligent, and original. His acting was remarkably clever in several scenes, and it was warmly appreciated and heartily applauded by the audience. Mr Cyril Maude has, in fact, never displayed so much ability. At the close of the drama Mr Buchanan was called for and received considerable applause, which would perhaps have been still more cordial if he had brought the story of Man and the Woman to a more satisfactory conclusion.

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Lloyd’s Weekly Newspaper (22 December, 1889)

CRITERION THEATRE.

     The story of Mr. Robert Buchanan’s new drama Man and the Woman, favourably received on Thursday afternoon, could almost be packed in the proverbial nutshell. An estimable lady, whose first marriage has been of a most unhappy description, believes herself a widow, and is on the point of taking another husband, when spouse No. 1 re-appears. Although a most hypocritical vagabond, Philip O’Mara refuses to come to any arrangement by which his wife can be freed of his presence; but at this deadlock Nemesis—in the guise of a half-demented man whose marital happiness has been wrecked by the arch-deceiver—intervenes and slays him, whereupon the curtain falls. These not particularly novel materials are manipulated with some skill, and the action includes a few lively passages between an old-fashioned rector and his exceedingly liberal-minded and practical curate—parts that on Thursday were effectively played by Messrs. John Beauchamp and Motcombe Gould respectively. Miss Myra Kemble, an Australian actress, showed stage experience as the much tried heroine; Miss Ada Neilson embodied with dramatic tact a confidential servant whose brother-in-law is the avenger; Mr. F. H. Macklin acted the proposed second husband with his wonted sincerity, and Mr. F. M. Paget narrated the wrongs of Jake Owen without becoming tedious. The best impersonation—partly because the opportunities for distinction were greater—was that of Philip O’Mara, by Mr. Cyril Maude, whose performance was careful, bold, and full of character.

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The Sheffield and Rotherham Independent (23 December, 1889 - p.8)

     At the Criterion, on Thursday afternoon, Miss Myra Kemble, described as “the” Australian actress, produced and played the chief part in a queer drama, by Mr. Robert Buchanan, entitled, “Man and the Woman,” in which the question whether the marriage knot should be untieable is dramatically discussed, but not satisfactorily decided. The heroine declines to appeal to the law to give her the release which the law could not under the peculiar circumstances refuse to give her, and obtains release from the persecutions of a rank, bad husband by the intervention of a lunatic, who discovers in the bad husband aforesaid the destroyer of his own domestic happiness, and opportunely kills him, so leaving the lady free to espouse the man she has learned to love. Miss Kemble plays nicely, and Mr. Cyril Maude is quite capable of making a strong original character of the objectionable husband, if he gets a more matured opportunity.

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The Stage (27 December, 1889 - p.13)

THE CRITERION.

     On Thursday morning, December 19, 1889, was produced here a new play, in three acts, written by Robert Buchanan, entitled:—

Man and the Woman.

Sir George Venables, Bart  ...    Mr. F. H. Macklin
Rev. Dr. Herbert             ... ...     Mr. John Beauchamp
Rev. Mr. Bream             ... ...    Mr. Nutcombe Gould
Philip O’Mara                ... ...    Mr. Cyril Maude
Jake Owen                    ... ...    Mr. F. M. Paget
Gillian Dartmouth            ... ...     Miss Myra Kemble
Barbara Leigh                ... ...     Miss Ada Neilson
Little Dora                    ... ...    Miss D. Harwood

     When Mr. Gladstone, in reply to queries from the editor of a clerical newspaper, put forth with his facile omniscience certain valuable opinions upon marriage and divorce, his views were quickly made the text by Mr. Robert Buchanan of a letter to the Daily Telegraph. The letter was clever and entertaining, and many readers may have wondered whether it was intended to herald a deluge of correspondence similar to that we were treated to a year ago, under the heading “Is Marriage a Failure?” However, “Is Marriage Eternal?” as the epistle in question was distinguished, appears to have been put forward simply as a “puff preliminary” for Mr. Buchanan’s new play. Man and the Woman is a play with a purpose apparently, the purpose being to illustrate the disabilities under which women labour in the existing state of our marriage laws. To our thinking the time is not ripe—and may never be ripe—when either novels or plays may be made wholly fitting vehicles for the illustration of controversial theories. Our audiences are apt to be easily bored by the dramatic exploitation of a theory, and to resent as one-sided, and, therefore, uninteresting, any too persistent harping upon it. Had Mr. Buchanan thought less of “Is Marriage Eternal?” and more of making his drama go, it is likely he would have equally well served his theoretical purpose, and at the same time have enhanced in a popular way the value of his work. In Man and the Woman he presents a familiar story: a woman wronged by a wicked husband, who has deserted her; she, thinking her whilom lord and master dead, is about to wed another, when the wanderer returns to blast her life. A conventional subject that has been treated on the stage times without number; still Mr. Buchanan contrived by his stagecraft to render its opening thoroughly interesting. Beyond that, however, the play scarcely moved; there was nothing but an insistence upon the woes of the ill-treated wife and her would-be suitor until the conclusion, when, as was fully anticipated, the selfish, callous husband was killed by an enemy whose wife he had betrayed. There is not enough body in the play nor incident, and as we have said, our audiences are not disposed to sit out a play because its subject is considered instructive. The first thing they require is entertainment, with which, of course the instruction may be administered homœopathically or otherwise, according to the skill of the dramatist.
     To come to the story, the plot is quickly laid bare in the first act. Gillian Dartmouth, a comely “widow” of some thirty years, living with her only child, a girl, in peace at her country home, is about to be wedded to her neighbour Sir George Venables, an excellent fellow and an ardent lover. She worships him, but has a secret to disclose, not only to him, but to her friend the rector, a gentleman of pronouncedly High Church views. Before opportunity serves for her disclosure, a disturbance is created by the bringing in of a wayfarer, dressed as a miner, who has been found fainting in the adjacent road. Want and misery have made the man almost delirious, but he makes it known that he seeks Barbara Leigh—Mrs. Dartmouth’s faithful servant—and to her he discovers himself as a brother-in-law. His wife, he explains, eloped from him in Brazil, and shortly afterwards died, and his purpose in coming to England is to track and kill the man who took her away. Barbara has him removed, and Mrs. Dartmouth proceeds to enlighten Sir George and the Vicar as to her story. She had been married young to a man named O’Mara, who has used towards her every cruelty, refined and brutal, had squandered her income, had been unfaithful, and had deserted her. For years she remained under the assumed name of Dartmouth in fear of his return, until at last news came of his death. The Vicar gravely disapproves of her assuming a false name, but Sir George passes the matter over lightly, and with his fiancée goes forth riding. Presently through the French window strolls in an artistic-looking fellow, with a dissipated, worn face and iron-grey hair. In a lackadaisical manner he asks permission of the Vicar to finish some sketch he was making. It is, of course, easily guessed that this is the truant O’Mara come opportunely home to spoil his wife’s second marriage. He charms the Vicar by the manner in which he betrays his fondness for art, culture, religion, and the higher life generally, so that the reverend old gentleman feels no scruple at leaving the strange visitor alone. Left to commune with himself Mr. O’Mara shows his true colours, as a heartless scoundrel, who returns after all the ill he has worked only to serve his purpose by preying upon his wife. He is disturbed by the entrance of the little girl Dora, and rightly surmising she is his daughter, caresses her with glib hypocrisy, and turning to the piano is playing a polka to which the child is dancing, when Gillian enters. She recognises her husband with a scream, and falls fainting into the arms of Sir George, who has followed her. With this very powerful scene the act ends, and so, indeed, does most of the interest of the play, for everyone of any experience as a playgoer must at once divine that the introduction of the revengeful tramp is only for the purpose of wreaking dramatic vengeance upon O’Mara. The interval between the first act and the obvious denouement is fitted up with a good deal of irrelevant disputing between the Vicar and his curate—who is a muscular Christian and a Broad Churchman in a double sense—with the development of the character of O’Mara, who turns out to be a villain of a very original type. Finding how much his wife has grown to loath him, he seeks to force himself upon her with hypocritical pretence of repentence and promise of amendment. From entreaty he turns to bullying, and so frightens Gillian by threatening to take from her the custody of the child, that she secretly goes away with the little one, leaving behind her a letter to O’Mara, giving up to him all her possessions, on condition that he does not follow her. He, however has her tracked and the child brought back. Gillian returns, and, at last overcoming her scruples against divorce, decides to appeal to the law to rid her of her husband, who, being foiled, indulges in savage sarcasm at the expense of everybody in general and particular, and is making his exit with a mocking bow when the miner rushes in and stabs him dead. Miss Myra Kemble, a lady who has won reputation as a leading actress in Australia, and at whose instance the matinée under notice was given, played the much-suffering Gillian O’Mara. Notwithstanding the nervousness incident to the occasion, and notwithstanding that the part was a very trying and arduous one, with few opportunities for effect, Miss Kemble created a very favourable impression. She has a good stage presence, is graceful, has a fine delivery, and a charming voice. By far the best part in the piece is O’Mara, and it was admirably played by Mr. Cyril Maude. Here and there was a lack of decision in his rendering, which would disappear in a night or two were the piece to be played regularly, and then we venture to think that Mr. Maude’s performance would stand as one of the most finished and powerful studies of character we have recently seen. The part has been justly described as a mixture of Harold Skimpole and Lambert Streyke. To those lines, however, sufficiently suggested by the author, Mr. Maude added a Mephistophelian touch that told with subtle effect. Mr. F. H. Macklin was unsympathetic but otherwise efficient as Sir George. Mr. Beauchamp gave an excellent rendering of the stiff, High Church parson. Mr. Nutcombe Gould was no less effective as his foil, the broad-minded young curate, Mr. Bream and Mr. F. M. Paget gave a very good rendering of the very difficult part of Jake Owen, the melodramatic miner. Miss Ada Neilson was Barbara Leigh, a vigorous country servant of uncertain dialect, and the child was played nicely, though not brilliantly, by Miss Harwood.

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The Illustrated London News (28 December, 1889 - p.6)

THE PLAYHOUSES.

. . .

... I have so overrun the space allotted to me that I must reserve for another occasion my remarks about Mr. Robert Buchanan’s social dramatic play called “Man and the Woman,” recently produced at a Criterion matinée. It is a “play with a purpose,” and a very serious piece of work indeed—in fact, so serious and argumentative that the Ibsenites have almost forgiven their enemy “the cuttlefish.” He has wiped the ink stains off their fingers!
                                                                                                                                                           C. S.

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The Theatre (1 February, 1890)

“MAN AND THE WOMAN.”

New play in three acts by ROBERT BUCHANAN.
First produced at the Criterion Theatre, Thursday Afternoon, December 19, 1889.

Sir Geo. Venables, Bart. ...    Mr. F. H. Macklin.
Rev. Dr. Herbert         ... ...    Mr. John Beauchamp.
Rev. Mr. Bream           ... ...     Mr. Nutcombe Gould.
Philip O’Mara              ... ...     Mr. Cyril Maude.
Jake Owen                  ... ...    Mr. F. M. Paget

Stokes             ... ...    Mr. Gilbert.
Gillian Dartmouth  ...     Miss Myra Kemble.
Barbara Leigh      ...    Miss Ada Neilson.
Little Dora        ... ...     Miss D. Harwood.

     Mr. Buchanan would, I think, have added to the interest of a clever and well-written play, had he not shown us so clearly in his first act the means whereby his heroine would be extricated from her difficulties. Gillian Dartmouth is one of those unhappy women who, married, when quite young in her case, to Philip O’Mara, soon discovers her husband to be everything that is wicked and base. After seven years of ill-treatment, he robs her of what little she possesses and deserts her. She inherits a little property, assumes the name of Dartmouth, and, as after some little time she learns her husband is dead, thinks herself justified in accepting the love of Sir George Venables. The day before her marriage with the baronet, O’Mara presents himself again, and at once claims to resume his masterly position in the household. Rather than submit to this Gillian leaves everything behind her but her child. Piqued at her repugnance, O’Mara employs Stokes to steal Little Dora, knowing that this will bring his wife back. She does return, and driven to desperation, she determines to appeal to the Divorce Court and free herself. In this course she is supported by the  Rev. Mr. Bream, “a muscular Christian,” whereas the Rev. Dr. Herbert, a narrow-minded churchman of the old school, believing that nothing should part man and wife, urges her to forgive O’Mara, who has won him over by his hypocritical sycophancy. Which course is the right one? Mr. Buchanan evidently enquires in the abstract; but in his play O’Mara is assassinated by Jake Owen, whose wife the libertine husband has taken from her home and then left to starve. The materials are not very new, but appear so in the vivid telling, and Miss Myra Kemble, an Australian  actress, made her debût in England, and is certainly an acquisition to the London Stage. She is ladylike, has a very sweet voice, and is in sympathy with her audience. Mr. Cyril Maude had a very difficult part to play, a polished gentleman outwardly, a man of artistic tastes and honeyed accents when it pleases him; when he does show the cloven hoof he betrays himself to be a cowardly bully, devoid of every manly feeling. Even such a complex character as this the young actor very nearly succeeded in rendering to perfection. Mr. Beauchamp and Mr. Nutcombe Gould were excellent as the different types of clergymen; and Mr. F. M. Paget, though a little too much en evidence in the play, was powerful as the maddened, revengeful Jake Owen. Mr. F. H. Macklin was natural as the Baronet; Miss Ada Neilson clever as the honest outspoken servant Barbara Leigh, and Miss D. Harwood was very winning and unstagey as Little Dora.

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[Note: More information about Myra Kemble is available on the Stage Whispers site.]

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Next: Clarissa (1890)

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