The World, February 12, 1907
[The Irishmen of New York and Dublin have combined to boycott all plays which contain a Stage Irishman.]
The Scene is the Embankment, the time the near future, late at night. On benches in the foreground are huddled ragged figures, who on closer inspection prove to be Messrs. Cyril Maude, Walter Passmore, Eric Lewis, Granville Barker, and others. A policeman tramps to and fro stolidly.
Mr. Cyril Maude. And only a few months ago I was a bright, happy actor-manager, with a nice new theatre all my own! Ah me!
Mr. Passmore. Well, we’re all in the same box.
Mr. Maude (unconscious of the interruption). And what led to my downfall? Drink? No. Rash speculation? No. A second collapse of the station? No, Simply the fact that the aristocracy banded themselves together, and refused to allow me to act any longer as Toddles. They said that lords were rarely irresolute——
Mr. Passmore. And take my case——
Mr. Maude. And never under any conditions walked abroad in their pyjamas. Ah me!
Mr. Passmore. What happened to me? Drawing a princely salary as Sindbad. Crowded houses. All right, absolutely. Then one day the thunderbolt. Deputation of sailors from Portsmouth waited on me. Said that my Sindbad was a libel on sailors. I protested. No good. They simply said, “On the knee, you dog!” and I had to go.
Mr. Eric Lewis. The doctors of London rose en masse, positively en masse, my dear sir, against my B. B.
Mr. Granville Barker. I was hooted in Tite Street by Chelsea artists. They didn’t like my Dubedat. Next day the theatre was wrecked. I nipped into the Sloane Square Underground and escaped with my life. And here I am!
Mr. Joseph Coyne. Say, you fellers, your quaint old English customs have me guessing all the time. Thought I’d made a grandstand strike as Billy Ricketts. Thought I’d hit ’em good and plenty, I did, when I got a dinky little letter from Lombard Street ordering me to get off quick to the woods before they got their guns out. Said they didn’t approve of comic bankers. Said no banker would ever sit down with six girls and sing a song in the Savoy Hotel courtyard. No pleasing some people.
Mr. Laurence Irving (toying with a property jemmy). Lot of beastly rough fellows broke into my house late at night. Said they were burglars, and would I kindly mind not playing Crawshay. All armed, too. Every man with a bludgeon and a revolver. I gave in, of course.
Mr. Gerald du Maurier. Same thing happened to me. I haven’t had a bit of food for twenty-four hours. I think I shall have to go on the halls.
Mr. Cyril Maude. Ah, Tree’s the lucky man! His is the only theatre open now. All London fights for places. I wish—— Hullo!
[Policeman X 24 is seen moving on a tall, languid figure with a kink in one knee. The figure is bathed in moonlight.
Mr. Passmore. Tree!
Mr. Maude. My dear Beerbohm!
Mr. Tree (resignedly). ’Tis well! There are moments when the bravest man must bow to Fate. I thought I was all right, considering that I kept off modern types so carefully. But no.
Mr. Maude. Why, what happened?
Mr. Tree. I have even now been ejected from my stage by a bevy of waiters from cheap restaurants.
Mr. Maude. They came to see you as Antony?
Mr. Tree (resignedly). And objected to my putting a comic Italian on the stage.
(Scene closes amid gloomy silence.)
p. g. wodehouse.
PGW gathers the foremost British character actors of the day to bemoan the public outcry over the portrayal of the Irish on stage. The ‘stage Irishman’ made his first appearance as a distinct comic type in the early part of the eighteenth century; he was generally garrulous, boastful, unreliable, hard-drinking, belligerent (though cowardly) and chronically impecunious; possessed of rollicking good humor, generosity, patriotism, reverence, weakness in resolution, a tendency to dipsomania—the stage Irishman is expected to be some sort of a blend of all these.
- John Dawson