Play List:

1. The Rath Boys

2. The Witchfinder

3. A Madcap Prince

4. Corinne

5. The Queen of Connaught

6. The Nine Days’ Queen

7. The Mormons

8. The Shadow of the Sword

9. Lucy Brandon

10. Storm-Beaten

11. Lady Clare

[Flowers of the Forest]

12. A Sailor and His Lass

13. Bachelors

14. Constance

15. Lottie

16. Agnes

17. Alone in London

18. Sophia

19. Fascination

20. The Blue Bells of Scotland

21. Partners

22. Joseph’s Sweetheart

23. That Doctor Cupid

24. Angelina!

25. The Old Home

26. A Man’s Shadow

27. Theodora

28. Man and the Woman

29. Clarissa

30. Miss Tomboy

31. The Bride of Love

32. Sweet Nancy

33. The English Rose

34. The Struggle for Life

35. The Sixth Commandment

36. Marmion

37. The Gifted Lady

38. The Trumpet Call

39. Squire Kate

40. The White Rose

41. The Lights of Home

42. The Black Domino

43. The Piper of Hamelin

44. The Charlatan

45. Dick Sheridan

46. A Society Butterfly

47. Lady Gladys

48. The Strange Adventures of Miss Brown

49. The Romance of the Shopwalker

50. The Wanderer from Venus

51. The Mariners of England

52. Two Little Maids from School

53. When Knights Were Bold

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ROBERT WILLIAMS BUCHANAN (1841 - 1901)

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THEATRE REVIEWS

12. A Sailor and His Lass (1883) - continued

 

The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News (27 October, 1883 - p.3)

     I CAN scarcely believe that Mr. Robert Buchanan is in earnest when he writes to the Standard and talks of an “organised cabal” against his play, The Sailor and His Lass. If Mr. Buchanan is sincere he is seriously mistaken. The idea of an “organised opposition” was invented a few years ago by a dramatist whose play failed, and who, after reflecting on the plot, incidents, and dialogue, could not see why. In common with the few hundreds of people that were in the theatre on the first night of the production, I could have told him, and “bad piece” would have been the explanation; but, oddly enough, from the outside point of view, this was the one thing that never occurred to the dramatist. The notion has been adopted a few times since, and now Mr. Buchanan takes it up. As a matter of fact, the reception of The Sailor and His Lass was astonishingly good. “Organised cabals” do not exist. What is more, they could not exist if members of a cabal arrived with the most malevolent designs, for the good feeling of the audience would summarily suppress them. If the flattering unction comforts Mr. Buchanan’s soul, by all means let him adopt it. It is nonsense all the same.

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     WHAT, by the way, is the peculiarity of the acres which are supposed to belong to the squire in a melodrama? They are always described—vide Mr. Robert Buchanan in The Sailor and His Lass, passim—as “broad acres.” Are they broader than other acres? Because if so, what they gain in breadth they must necessarily lose in length? I mean, an acre, if it be an acre, can only contain a certain superficial area, and so no particular advantage can accrue to the possessor from the fact of it being broad. Yet there must be something exceptional in the idea of broad acres, or authors of melodrama would not insist on their breadth. I wish Mr. Buchanan, the latest supporter of the broad acre theory, would enlighten me.

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The New York Times (29 October, 1883)

STAGE EVENTS IN LONDON

PIECES FOR SHOW AND THE NEWEST SUCCESSFUL ONE.

BUCHANAN AND HARRIS AND THEIR “SAILOR AND HIS LASS”—
THE ADVANTAGES OF JOINT AUTHORSHIP.

     LONDON, Oct. 16.—Last night the long-promised and often-postponed new “grand nautical sensation drama” of “A Sailor and His Lass,” by Robert Buchanan and Augustus Harris, was at length produced at Drury-Lane Theatre. The repeated postponement of the play was due to more than one cause. In the first place, it is got up with more than usually elaborate scenic effects, the stage “set” being extraordinarily numerous and complicated, especially in the case of a wonderfully realistic ship scene, the machinery of which fairly broke down in the course of rehearsal and had to be entirely reconstructed. Again, the Lord Chamberlain—that terrible authority who watches so carefully over the morals and politics of our stage—demurred to a proposed reproduction of the famous Fenian dynamite explosion in Charles- street, Westminster, which was to form one of the sensational features of the piece, and progress could not be made until the great affair had been so arranged as not to shock his lordship’s sense of propriety. So, Mr. Harris, after many announcements of his intention to produce the piece on a particular night, was compelled to promise the performance with the qualifying and pious reservation of “D. V.,” which irreverent persons have translated as meaning, “If the Lord Chamberlain and the machinist are willing.” However, the great censor of the stage is at last pacified and the Deus ex machinâ has at length allowed the ship to be launched, and so the new Drury-Lane venture has been started on what promises to be a fairly prosperous career.
     The joint composition of “A Sailor and his Lass” is the outcome of a practice long in vogue on the French stage but until lately not so common in England. Somehow or other our dramatic authors have failed to appreciate the advantages of collaboration. Each has preferred to work “on his own hook,” scorning all assistance, and the result has often been failure where success might have been assured. Nevertheless, in a few instances in the past collaboration, either avowed or concealed, has really had the happiest effects. The late Mr. Tom Taylor, for instance, probably never produced a more successful or charming play than “New Men and Old Acres,” which he wrote in conjunction with Mr. Augustus Dubourg, while Mr. James Albery’s happiest effort, “Two Roses,” is believed to have owed its great success mainly to the assistance he received from a judicious stage manager. It is indeed the opinion of our best critics that the dearth of really good acting plays from which we have so long been suffering has been due to the want of a solid experience of stage effect united to literary ability, and these are faculties not often combined in one and the same person. Even a clever novice working with a good practical stage manager may turn out a better play than a man of the greatest literary skill rejecting such help. Of this we have had several examples of late years. Mr. Brandon Thomas, a young and untried author, working with Mr. C. B. Stephenson, a sound old stager, produced a capital play in “Comrades,” and “The Silver King,” one of the greatest hits of our time, is, as every one knows, the joint production of Mr. H. A. Jones, a comparatively new man, and Mr. Henry Herman, an excellent practical stage manager. Nor are even the most distinguished of our literary dramatists now above calling in the help of men experienced in what I may term “stage carpentry.” Thus Mr. Charles Reade not long ago condescended to work with such a thoroughly practical man as Mr. Henry Pettitt, and the joint outcome of their labors was an excellent piece “Love and Money.” Mr. Pettitt, again, has lately been co-operating with Mr. George R. Sims, and the two between them have turned out “In the Ranks,” which is playing at the Adelphi to literally overflowing houses. In the course of a few weeks, too, we shall have at the Princess’s a new piece by Mr. W. G. Wills and Mr. Henry Herman, and meanwhile we find that Mr. Robert Buchanan, who has never, except perhaps in the case of his “Storm-Beaten” at the Adelphi, achieved any marked success on the stage, going into partnership with Mr. Augustus Harris, and composing a play which, with all its faults, at any rate is something that Mr. Buchanan never produced on his own account, a good acting drama.
     I had the privilege of being one of a small audience of some 20 or 30 persons invited to witness a “dress rehearsal” of the new play at Drury-Lane on Saturday night, and the performance under these conditions was equally instructive and amusing. It was instructive, inasmuch as such a trial should teach the captious critic how great are the difficulties with which the most painstaking of managers have to contend, difficulties which can only be appreciated by actually seeing the efforts made to overcome them. It was amusing, as the process of preparation, presenting the performances in their two- fold capacity as, so to speak, public and private characters, give rise to the oddest incongruities. Then Mr. Augustus Harris, the manager, upon whom the whole weight of the work of getting up and directing the performance devolves, plays in the piece the part of a gallant young sailor who is always rescuing people in distress, and who by the machinations of a band of villains is accused of murder, tried, and condemned to death. To give some idea how matters go at a dress rehearsal in these circumstances, let me describe some of the incidents as I witnessed them, premising that Mr. Augustus Harris, with that conscientiousness which always distinguishes him, “acts” as energetically at a rehearsal with only a couple of dozen spectators before him as he does on “the night” to a crowded house. The scene is a court of justice, the barristers assembled in their wigs and gowns and the public gathered to hear the trial. The prisoner guarded by wardens is placed in the dock. A subdued murmur passes through the court. “Louder, louder,” cries the prisoner, “make more noise! You are ready enough to make a row when it is not wanted and now no one can hear you. Now louder!” The buzzing in court being at last loud enough to satisfy the accused man, the jury enter, a shabby, feeble- looking lot certainly. “Now then,” exclaims this extraordinary prisoner, “don’t come sneaking in like that. Hold your heads up and let everybody see you. Then go back and come in again.” But this is nothing to the gross contempt of court of which the prisoner is guilty when the Judges themselves make their appearance. Fancy a man standing manacled in the dock with the weight of the most terrible of charges crushing him down, addressing the great and dignified functionaries who are about to try him for his life in this wise: “That won’t do! That won’t do! You haven’t to hide yourselves under those desks. You have got to sit behind them. Go back, go back! All over again!” And so the ermined Judges, at the bidding of this bold prisoner, sneak out of court and return in a manner with which he at last expresses himself satisfied. The scene changes. It is the condemned cell, and the prisoner sits alone, heartbroken, unjustly doomed to die. Presently the Governor of the jail enters. The condemned man rises respectfully. “I have come to tell you, Harry Hastings,” says the Governor, “that—that”— “You cannot hope for mercy,” whispers a voice in the distance. “Yes—that you cannot hope for mercy. Your time is short—let me abjure you—” “No, no,” breaks in the unhappy prisoner, “conjure you, man; conjure you.” “Yes—I beg pardon—conjure you to make your peace with Heaven.” Here the Governor, overcome by emotion or loss of memory, breaks down, the prisoner orders him to leave the cell, and a gentleman with a manuscript in his hand comes in and delivers the last touching words of the officer of the law. How the condemned man escapes from jail and actually appears in the street outside the walls of the prison in which he is to be hanged, and bullies the Sheriffs who have arrived to superintend his execution; how he goes into agonies of wrath because they will not toll the bell that announces his impending doom, and how, being apparently recaptured, he is pinioned and led toward the scaffold, yet interferes in the most audacious manner with every detail of the last dismal preparations for his own death, I need not describe. Seriously, Mr. Harris worked as hard as manager ever did to secure the success of his play, and he well deserved the enthusiastic applause of a crowded audience which last night rewarded his efforts.
     It is hardly necessary to say more about the plot of the piece than may be gathered from what I have said already,  for, to tell the truth, the story, though exciting enough, is not particularly novel. It is little more than a peg whereon o hang a series of sensational scenes, and the literary skill of Mr. Robert Buchanan does not conspicuously shine in it. The scenic effects, however, are for the most part very striking, and in some instances original. Nothing, for example, went better than the real shower of rain in the second act, while the dynamite explosion behind the scenes, accompanied by a tremendous fall of broken glass from the windows of the houses on the stage, duly impressed the audience. The great ship scene, the working of which had given so much trouble, hardly repaid the pains bestowed upon it. The vessel, a  two-masted bark, was very solidly built up, and by means of a movable side the cabins and banks, and what was going on in them, were exhibited, as well as the action on deck. But I am afraid that if its details had been criticised by an expert—say, Mr. Clark Russell, the “Seafarer” of the Daily Telegraph—it would not have been found above reproach. Sails do not flap idly against the mast when a ship is bowling along before a fresh breeze, nor is a vessel wholly stationary when a rough sea is rolling beneath her. The piece is played in that robust, energetic style which Mr. Harris seems to have imported from the south side of the Thames, and which has a multitude of admirers even on our more fastidious northern shores. Mr. Harris himself is the life and soul of the play, and acts with an earnestness as the gallant young sailor which is simply irresistible.

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The Theatre (1 November, 1883)

Our Play-Box.
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“A SAILOR AND HIS LASS.”

By ROBERT BUCHANAN and AUGUSTUS HARRIS. First produced at the Theatre Royal,
Drury Lane, Monday, October 15, 1883.

Harry Hastings         ...    ...    Mr. Augustus Harris
Walter Carruthers    ...    ...    Mr. William Morgan
Richard Kingston     ...    ...    Mr. Henry George
Michael Morton       ...    ...    Mr. James Fernandez
Mary Morton          ...    ...    Miss Harriet Jay
Esther                     ...    ...    Miss Sophie Eyre
Barby                      ...     ...     Miss Lillie Young
Bob Downey           ...    ...    Mr. Harry Jackson
Green                      ...    ...    Mr. Harry Nicholls
Ben Armstrong        ...    ...    Mr. John Ridley
Captain of the “Albatross”       Mr. A. C. Lilly
Mrs. Downsey         ...     ...     Miss M. A. Victor
Carrots                    ...     ...     Miss Clara Jecks
Bradley                    ...     ...     Mr. Charles Sennett
Hurt                         ...     ...     Mr. Arthur Chudleigh
Connell                    ...     ...     Mr. Bruton
Larry O’Brien          ...     ...     Mr. Paget Fairleigh
Master of Ceremonies     ...    Mr. Frank Parker
Black Waiter           ...    ...    Mr. G. OKill

Polly                        ...     ...     Mrs. Lennox
Susan                    ...    ...    Miss Cissy St. George
Policeman                ...     ...     Mr. Mayston
Jew Slopseller         ...    ...    Mr. Sloman
Landlord                 ...    ...    Mr. C, Johnson
Boy                        ...    ...    Master Smith
Lighthouse Keeper  ...    ...    Mr. George Gillett
Polly                        ...     ...     Mrs. Barrett
Judge                      ...    ...    Mr. C. Douglas
Clerk of the Arraigns ...    ...     Mr. Nicholson
Foreman of Jury        ...     ...     Mr. Phipps
Police Inspector       ...    ...    Mr. Stevens
Governor of Newgate      ...    Mr. Villiers
Smith                        ...     ...     Mr. B. H. Bentley
Chaplain                   ...     ...     Mr. C. Johnson
Sheriff                      ...    ...    Mr. Lewis
Coffee-stall-Keeper ...    ...    Mr. Arthur Chudleigh
First Masher             ...     ...     Miss Addie Grey
Mary Brown             ...     ...     Miss Emily Clare

THE dramatic life and adventures of Mr. Augustus Harris are little short of miraculous. His appetite for adventure, his thirst for gore, his love of danger, difficulty, and dynamite are seemingly unquenchable; and living (dramatically) as he does in a seething whirlpool of criminal commotion and “effects,” there is good ground for fear that the result on the actor-manager may be of a disastrous nature. In fact, it is high time to check his boisterous career, for this last Drury Lane monstrosity is really too much for us. When Mr. Harris some years back assumed the management of what he is pleased to call the National Theatre, he felt the pulse of the public, and pretty accurately diagnosed the very low state of the public taste requiring sensation, outrage, and noisy nonsense. He accordingly produced “The World,” in which, with commendable accuracy, he played a villain. He then entered on a wild course of extravagance. He is a born stage- manager, and a master of mechanism. He has, moreover, a power of ludicrously audacious advertisement that tickled the public taste; and so he piled up horror upon horror in the series of bombastic pantomimes that he is pleased to call plays, and the public liked the horrors, and meekly, indeed cheerfully, swallowed them. Unfortunately, Mr. Harris was not content to be a king among melodramatic managers. He insisted on becoming both author and actor; and the result is that we have first protested, then laughed, then growled, and now are almost seriously sulky.
     Mr. Harris’s villain was a clever thing; but in an evil moment he took to heroes, and his heroes, with their flaunting valour and eternal generous manliness, are very irritating—their virtue is at times insufferable. Of recent days Mr. Harris has posed as the hearty, cheery, British sailor—fighting, roving, squabbling, rescuing damsels, bearding wicked folk of various types in their respective lairs, and being, at proper intervals, either shipwrecked or shot at—to his heart’s  content. Of this type is the hero of “A Sailor and his Lass,” who bears a strong likeness to the Bold Boy Buccaneer” or “Young Pirate” of the juvenile penny novelette. Indeed, the whole play might be re-christened “The Daring Adventures of Harry Hastings, profusely illustrated, with full-page coloured Supplement. A piece of poetry by Shakespeare and other authors given away with each chapter. Complete in five parts.” And its chapter-scheme would run some way thus:—
     ACT I.  “How Harry woos and wins Mary Morton in an orchard—the murder—the criminal grandpapa—Harry smashes the villain, and flies to London in a four-wheel cab. Original couplet given away with this chapter.”—[Notes by reviewer. Flimsy sentiment and a real cow. Miss Sophie Eyre excellent as a “wronged sister” of the “Promise of May” type. Mr. Jackson’s conservative comic cabman very healthy.]
     ACT II. “Harry’s daring deeds with the Dynamiters!—how he has tea with the cabman, takes compassion on Carrots and goes to sea. Terrible scene of midnight orgie in Ratcliff Highway (illustrated in colours). Given away with this chapter a box, containing an explosion that has nothing on earth to do with the adventures of Harry, and kills nobody, and may be safely used by the young of both sexes, also a passage from “Macbeth.” How the villain ships a criminal crew on board the good ship Albatross. Mary’s misery.—[Notes by reviewer. Mr. Nicholls amusing as a comic conspirator. Miss Clara Jecks’ Carrots a charming vignette. Mr. Ryan’s “The Docks” a capital cloth. Real rain, real horse, everything real save Harry. Quite evident that Mr. Buchanan has written a drama called “Macbeth” for himself, as the late William Shakspeare never wrote anything about “secret, black and midnight shapes”—why shapes? is it Buchanese for “hags?”]
     ACT III.  “Harry at sea on the magic ship with transparent water-tight bulkheads and bulwarks—the mutiny—the stowaway—the ‘registration’ of the name of ‘the strong heroic man’ Harry—the wreck—how grandmother Grace Darling, with half-drowned Carrots and the Ancient Mariner punts out in fathoms of stormy water—how Harry heeds the baby’s cry, drowns a dynamiter, and saves the wet ‘wronged sister’ Sophie from what are evidently salt waves—how the baby takes its caul. Given away with this chapter, “the Ballad of the Stowaway.”—[Notes by  reviewer. The ship very foolish—the scene in the rigging short and excellent of its kind, the Buchanese ballad evidently not Clement Scott’s—great feeling of relief that the majority of the nasty people are drowned.]
     ACT IV. “The villain triumphant—the wronged one begins to right herself—comic conspirator begins to look mildly malignant—the tag of the trial. Given away with this chapter a full-page heartrending picture of the sad scene in the Central Criminal Court, by Grieve of course.”—[Notes We rather like the wronged one, she is picturesque in her passion.]
     ACT V.  “Crime and coffee—the murderer’s remorse—Mary Morton “evidently on the batter" before Newgate—sentiment in a snowstorm—glorious complications—the hanging of Harry—the black hour—the black  watch, and the black flag. Up with the rag. The trap-warder. ‘Are you ready? Pull!’ ‘No!’ ‘Yes!’ The reprieve. Hurra for Harry! The end.” Given away, “A London poem.”
     In all seriousness, this last act is very, very bad. The action shifts about uneasily, the tender adieu in the condemned cell is prolonged, mawkish, and, as far as “Harry” was concerned, was on the first night superbly inaudible. The act was saved by Mr. Fernandez’s one moment of earnest acting in his confession. It was not really a very great effort. I have seen him do far better in the memorable scene in Mr. Wills’s “Ninon,” but it stood out from the gloomy atmosphere of bathos and bosh that pervades the last act, and the actor deserved the recognition of his effort that was thundered down to him by a long-suffering house. Of the rest of the long caste that has been collected above from a somewhat complicated programme, I thought that Miss Jay played the heroine over-romantically, at moments dangerously so. Mr. George’s villain was consistent and sound; his voice is strong, and his bearing emphatic. Excellent in their respective forms of melodramatic clowning were Mr. Harry Jackson and Mr. Harry Nicholls—portions of this play are full of Harrys; and Mr. Sennett’s mysterious dynamiter, Miss Victor’s Mrs. Downsey, the motherly spouse of the comic cabman with severe notions of propriety, and Mr. Lilly’s Captain, were all clever studies. Mr. Oscar Barrett’s introduced music makes the play at moments operatic, and concerning Mr. Harris I will say no more. His pluck, enterprise, and managerial skill and ingenuity I admire; but it is my painful case that I never could, and never will, admire his heroes or his method of acting.
     Touching the question raised by the critics, and recently replied to by Mr. Buchanan, as regards the “revolting realism” of the last act, I would point out that in all the details of the last scene not a word is said, not a line introduced, until the girl rushes on with the reprieve, and that consequently the scene is, to use Mr. Buchanan’s own words, “a representation of revolting details, unillumined by imagination, and untempered by art.”
     With all due respect to Mr. Buchanan, “Art with a big A” revolts against these “effects” without a single streamlet of humanity running through them. Terence complained of the people who deserted his plays to see the rope-dancers, and we are forgetting dramatic art in our hurry to see hangings, and shipwrecks, and glory of gunpowder, and mechanical ships, and it’s high time all this should stop. Quo usque tandem? Shall we dramatise the Deluge or the Apocalypse?

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The Graphic (3 November, 1883)

     Apropos of some recent remarks on the “real shower of rain” in the new romantic drama at Drury Lane, we have received from Mr. Augustus Harris a note, in which he says:—“Is it worth while letting you know that the writer of the contradiction relating to ‘the objectionable realistic water effect’ in the new play was slightly in error, the ‘rice and spangles’ being only used for the splash against ‘Miss Eyre’s petticoats’ in the mast scene—which, by the way, was the only ‘real water’ objected to. The rain is water.”
     Mr. Augustus Harris also asks us to state that a letter published by his collaborator, Mr. Robert Buchanan, complaining in rather violent language of “the rancour of the dramatic ring and the contumely of a critical coterie,” was, though dated from Drury Lane Theatre, written without his (Mr. Harris’s) knowledge or authority.

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The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News (3 November, 1883 - p.18)

     VERY judiciously Mr. Augustus Harris disavows association with his collaborator, Mr. Robert Buchanan, in that gentleman’s violent attack upon “the rancour of the dramatic ring and the contumely of a critical coterie.” Mr. Harris is too shrewd a manager not to have discovered long ago that the “dramatic ring” is a figment of the imagination of the playwright, who for one reason or another thinks himself hardly used by his critics. It cannot be pleasant to have such silly, vulgar letters from Drury Lane theatre, and Mr. Harris is to be sympathised with in the circumstances which made his disclaimer necessary.

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The Entr’acte (3 November, 1883 - p.4)

Merry-go-Round.

THAT letter which Mr. Robert Buchanan wrote to the old lady of Wellington Street last week, was something more than warm. If it had aimed at any other critic than Mr. Clement Scott, it is quite possible that Mr. Ledger would not have been violently in love with it.

     That Master Gus should repudiate this letter is only wise. Gus does not wish to make enemies of the newspaper people.

     I can’t help thinking that “A Sailor and His Lass” has been condemned with something more than necessary severity. It is a very much better piece than “Freedom,” and the last-named was never a tenth part slated like the more recent production has been.

     The highest-class drama stands no chance at Drury Lane Theatre, where the actors’ voices are not heard at times, and their facial play is not seen by those members of the audience at the back of pit, boxes, and gallery. Broad effects are wanted here; plenty of intelligible incident, stirring situations, and good scenery are the factors which, above all others, are required to pull a drama through, at this vast theatre.

     The late Samuel Phelps told me that he played “Werner” at Drury Lane to something under a twenty-pounds house. The old man made this humiliating confession not because he liked to do it, but to prove to me how utterly futile were experiments with the classics at this establishment.

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The Illustrated London News (10 November, 1883)

     The scenes from “A Sailor and His Lass,” delineated by M. Forestier, afford a pretty fair notion of the exciting nature of the sensational melodrama written by Mr. Robert Buchanan and Mr. Augustus Harris for Drury Lane Theatre, and performed there since Monday, Oct. 15. First comes the striking ending to Act i.—the discovery of the dead body of Squire Carruthers, murdered by Farmer Morton (Mr. James Fernandez), because the latter suspected him (without cause) of having led astray his daughter Esther. The farmer is instigated to commit this crime by the modern Mephistopheles of the piece, Richard Kingston (Mr. Henry George), who forthwith threatens to accuse the absent sailor, who is Mary Morton’s sweetheart, if that young lady will not transfer her affections to him! The gallant sailor, Harry Hastings (Mr. A. Harris), has meantime taken pity on the unfortunate Esther (Miss Sophie Eyre), and escorted her to London, where he stumbles by accident across a secret meeting of dynamitards, prominent among whom is the unconscionable schemer, Richard Kingston. A party of these same dynamitards sail in Harry’s ship as members of the crew, and attempt to murder him; but he is warned in time by a stowaway (capitally played by Miss Clara Jecks) he had befriended in the docks. When the vessel is wrecked, and Harry, after a deadly struggle with a burly dynamitard on the mast, is wellnigh exhausted by his efforts to sustain Esther and her child, the stowaway and the Grace Darling of a neighbouring lighthouse, with her father, rescue them in a boat. The scenes in Newgate whilst Harry Hastings awaits his fate have been judiciously shortened; and the happy termination of the drama is arrived at the sooner.

 

[Click the picture for a larger version.]

illlonnewsailor02

The Entr’acte (17 November, 1883 - p.4)

     The “Sailor and His Lass” has been tremendously curtailed. I think this piece has been somewhat maltreated by the newspapers. It seems to give great satisfaction to the good audiences which foregather at Old Drury nightly. Mr. Buchanan has got himself disliked, and although I don’t say that the dramatic critics would treat him with a deliberate and pronounced unfairness, I am of opinion that they would not put themselves out of the way to excuse his faults.

     Miss Harriet Jay is to be seen to better advantage in light than in heavy parts. She is deficient in power. She played the boy in “Freedom” very pleasantly and well, but she does not shine in the piece which she is now playing in.

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The Liverpool Mercury (15 April, 1884 - p.6)

ALEXANDRA THEATRE.

     No circumstances more conducive to the favourable reception here of a piece which, though known in London and several large provincial centres, was new to this city, could have been hoped for than those which attended the production at the Alexandra Theatre last night of “A Sailor and His Lass,” and all to whom the fortunes of that stirring play are important must have felt that its life then received a fresh impetus. A fine stage, attached to which is every appliance which modern theatrical carpentry has devised, served for the play, and the spacious auditorium was occupied to the full by people in holiday humour, who had come willing to be entertained even by slender means. But the story—which, by the way, rests upon a strongly dramatic basis—had hardly begun to develope before the audience found themselves interested in a supreme measure. Though broadly designed and painted in the highest colours, the incidents of “A Sailor and His Lass,” regarded generally, come within the limits of probability. It is in matters of detail that those limits are exceeded. One of the objects of English melodrama has ever been to emphasise the advantages of honesty and the disadvantages of an opposite course. There is happily in “A Sailor and His Lass” no departure from this healthy purpose. They who have done wrong come to grief, and they who have been persecuted are restored to happiness. The construction of the piece is such as to indicate a hand practised in the bolder devices of the stage; and there are in the dialogue touches of genuine pathos, while the comedy, never obtrusive, is admirably sustained from beginning to end. It is unfortunate, however, that devotion to realism is carried so far in the last act. Here is depicted in all its sickening suggestiveness the process of preparing a man for the gallows. The stability of the play would not be injured by the removal of this exhibition. The scenes of the wreck of the Albatross, and the rescue by the lighthouse keepers, are heroic, and quicken one’s warmest sympathies; but this makes one turn away with a feeling of depression. It is true that relief speedily arrives, but the impression is too deeply made to be easily effaced. let us have the prison by all means, but without the repulsive accessories of an execution. Of the performance of “A Sailor and His Lass,” the authors of which are Mr. Robert Buchanan and Mr. Augustus Harris, there can be nothing said which does not savour of praise. Miss Daisy England and Miss Marie Illington, as the sisters who bear much of the sorrow which overtakes their happy home, display remarkable emotional power, and Miss L. Claremont portrays Mrs. Downsey with considerable comic force. Nor is Miss Barker unworthy of mention in the small part of a waif. Mr. A. C.  Lilly’s Richard Kingston, Mr. Charles Sennett’s Farmer Morton, and Mr. Estcourt’s Bradley, are impersonations of good workmanship. As Downsey and Green, the former a kind-hearted London cabman and the latter a sneaking scamp of the comic type, Mr. W. Sidney and Mr. Edmund Lyons render still more expressive the lighter vein of the story. Harry Hastings, the hero alike of its tragedy and its comedy, is played by Mr. W. R. Sutherland, an excellent actor, who makes the part stand out in high artistic relief. The scenery and the mechanical contrivances produce some very striking effects. “A Sailor and His Lass” is to be given every evening this week.

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[Advert for a revival of A Sailor and his Lass from The Stage (22 May, 1885 - p.12).]

 

The Stage (10 June, 1897 - p.12)

THE NOVELTY.

     Following out their newly-formed policy of presenting a series of Drury Lane dramas at their excellently-managed theatre, Mr. Walter Tyrrell and Miss V. St. Lawrence have staged for a fortnight, beginning on Whit-Monday, A Sailor and His Lass, by Robert Buchanan and Augustus Harris, which was originally produced October 15, 1883, the cast then including the lamented impresario, Messrs. James Fernandez, Henry George, Harry Jackson, Harry Nicholls, Misses Harriett Jay, Sophie Eyre, M. A. Victor, and Clara Jecks. A Sailor and His Lass has never been regarded as a good specimen of its class, but still it contains enough variety of incident and sensation to make it entertaining to popular audiences, and in this light it is certainly now being considered at the Novelty. For instance, the wreck of the “Albatross,” and the rescue by the lighthouse keeper, both very fairly carried out, have been watched with keen interest, while the later scenes in Newgate, recently beaten on their own ground by similar passages in Saved From the Sea, retain their power to impress the imagination. The performance given on Tuesday by the stock company was effective in the main. Miss St. Lawrence displayed her now familiar blend of searching earnestness and well-assumed vivacity as Mary Morton, the betrayed sister, Esther, being represented with care by Miss Isa Bellington. As the rebellious old farmer, Michael Morton, Mr. William Luff, though forcible, was too preachy and monotonous, while the rôle of the insidious Richard Kingston gave Mr. Bernard Copping no scope for passing out of the beaten path of conventional stage villainy. Mr. Jack Haddon, generally inclined to be too strenuous and vociferous, by no means spared himself in his manly impersonation of the sailor-hero, Harry Hastings. Mr. Harry Jackson formerly made the kindly cab-driver, Bob Dounsey, almost the most popular character in the piece, and the same now applies to Mr. Newman Maurice, who evidently found the part a congenial one. Mr. Clifford Soames did capital work as the young squire, Walter Carruthers, who is murdered in act one, and afterwards, we fancy, he appeared, also with success, as the boldest member of the dynamite gang. Miss Maudie Hastings gave on Jo lines a pathetic embodiment of the little waif and stowaway, Carrots, originally played by Miss Clara Jecks, and Miss Lucy Murray was well in the picture as the cabman’s wife. Mr. Teesdale was efficient as the cowardly professional agitator, Green, and the other places in a long cast were suitably filled.

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The Era (23 April, 1898 - p.12)

THEATRE ROYAL, STRATFORD.
On Monday, April 18th,
the Drama, by Sir Augustus Harris and Robert Buchanan,
entitled
“A SAILOR AND HIS LASS.”

     A company, under the able direction of Mr Charles Hartley, is here with A Sailor and His Lass. A masterly performance is given by Mr John Webb as Harry Hastings. Miss Violet Irving as Mary Morton comes in for a large share of praise. Mr Hartley as Richard Kingston and Miss Frances Delaval as Esther give thrilling readings of their respective parts, and thoroughly deserve the applause their acting evokes. Mr Lewis Ward (Michael Morton), Mr Edgar Leyton (Bob Douncey), and Miss Muriel Herbert (Mrs Douncey) render good service, and Miss Florence Creagh should be praised for her performance as Barby.

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[Poster for A Sailor and His Lass at the Grand Theatre, Nottingham, for the week commencing 13th June, 1898.]

sailortour

[Advert for provincial tour of A Sailor and His Lass from The Stage (30 June, 1898 - p.18).]

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