[Boston—Friday, 25 February 1870]

Friday 25. Mr. Fechter came to lunch with Mr. Longfellow, Mr. Appleton, Mr & Mrs Dorr. He talked freely about his Hamlet, so different from all other impersonations. His audience here he finds wonderfully good, better than any other, fine points which have never been applauded before bring out a round of applause. On the whole he appears to enjoy new hearers. Does not understand the constant comparison between himself and Booth. They are already great friends. Booth was in the house the last night of his performance there; afterward he did not come to speak to him & Fechter felt it, but a letter came yesterday saying he was so observed that he slipped away as soon as possible and could not come on Sunday because visitors prevented him. Better late than never, it was pleasant to Fechter to hear from Booth with one exception: he enclosed a notice from some newspaper cutting up himself horribly and praising Fechter. “Ah! that won’t do, I shall send it back to him and tell him why. We are totally unlike in our Hamlets and neither should be praised at the other’s expense.”

Mr. Fechter described minutely Mr. Dickens’ attack of paralysis last year, and the year before his prompt appearance in the box of the theatre at the last performance of “No Thoroughfare” which he said he should do but as Fechter had not heard of his return from America it was a great shock. “If it had been Hamlet or any difficult play I could not have gone on! He should not have done such a thing.” He told us a strange touching story of Madlle Mars during her last years. She came upon the stage one night to give one of the youthful parts in wh. she had once been so famous. When she appeared, some heartless wretch threw her a wreath of immortelles, as if for her grave. She was so shocked that the drops stood on her brow, the rouge fell from her cheeks and she stood motionless before the audience a picture of age and misery. She could not continue her part.

He spoke with intense enthousiasm of Frederick Lemaître much as I have heard Mr. Dickens do. “The second class actors were always arguing with him (only second class people argue) and saying “why do you wish me to stand here Frederick” “I don’t know he would say, only do it”.

Mr. Appleton was deeply interested in the fact that Shakespeare proved himself such a believer in ghosts as Hamlet shows and would like to push the subject farther, Mr. Fechter evidently finding much to say on this topic also. Mr. Longfellow was interested to ask about the Dumas père et fils. Mr. Fechter has known them well & has many queer stories to tell of their relation to each other. Le fils calls mon père “my youngest child born many years ago”—and the father usually introduces the son as M. Dumas, mon père. The motto on Fechter's note paper is very curious and a type of the man “Faiblesse vaut vice.”

Mr. Longfellow spoke again of Mr. Dickens restlessness of his terrible sadness. “Yes, yes” said Fechter “all his fame goes for nothing since he has not the one thing. He is very unhappy in his children.” Nobody can say how much too much of this the children have to bear and to how little purpose poor Miss Hogarth spends her life hoping to comfort and care for him. I never felt more keenly her anomalous and unnatural position in the household. Not one mentioned her name; they could not dare, I suppose (lest they might do her wrong). Ah how sad a name it must be to those who love him best. Dear dear Dickens!

Jamie is so weak that he went to sleep almost as soon as they were gone. God knows what it all means, I do not.

It is odd that Fechter’s eyes should be brown after all. They look so light in the play. He is a round little man naturally, friendly, spontaneous. We do not know what his life [h]as been and we will not ask, that does not rest with us,—but he is a very fine artist. His imitation of Mr. Dickens, as he sate on the lawn watching him at work, or as he joined him coming from his desk at lunch time with tears on his cheek and a smile on his mouth was very close to the life and delightful. Mr. Longfellow did not talk much, not as much as the last time he was here, but he was lovely & kind. He brought a coin of the French Republic which had been touched by French wit Liberte * (point) Egalité * (point) Fraternite * (point).

And more to the same effect without altering the coin.

Appleton has just bought a new Troyon wh. he says he shall lend me for a week.


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