The Irving Society Newsletter No 50


Michael K ilgarriff

As mentioned in TI 49, Bram Stoker’s accounts book for the 188 7-8 tour of England and North America was auctioned on 19 November. The page reproduced here shows Bram’s signature.

This fascinating record of nineteenth-century theatre finances on both sides of the Atlantic was owned by Stanley Weeden, a theatre production accountant who, perhaps, had been given it by a grateful client. Some years after his death it came into the possession of his daughter, Ann Cooke, who approached the Irving Society for a valuation. Two specialist dealers independently suggested £250; Mrs Cooke, however, decided to put it up for auction with a reserve of £1,000. In the meantime I emailed Dr Jeanne Youngson, one of our New York members, a Stoker enthusiast. She responded instantly, and also informed John Moore, Irish Vice-Chairman of the Bram Stoker Memorial Association, who rang m e offering to fly over from Dublin to pay spot cash.
Mrs Cooke, however, preferred to honour her commitment to the auctioneer, Charles Hanson of Derby.

A week or two later I saw that news of the auction had reached The Times, no less, which not only showed an illustration of two of the book’s pages but also declared the value to be between £5,000 and £10 ,000! This proved to be wildly optimistic, for in the event the book was sold to a phone bidder for £1,000. His name? John Moore.


Member Ann Rachlin MBE has sent in this photo of the dagger used by HI in The Corsican Brothers. It is made of rubber , presumably to avoid accidents during the heat of performance, and the dedicatee, Dr Darlington, may have been an American medical officer of health. This fascinating prop, mounted in a glass case, was recently gifted to Ann by her cousin, whose mother was Fay Pomerance, the distinguished artist, and whose father, Ben Pomerance, a Sheffield man, was vicechairman of Maple, Waring & Gillow. He was also an Irving fanatic. With the item is a separate citation by Barry Duncan of The Thule Theatre Gallery. It is dated 194 8 and reads a s follows :

‘This eight inch rubb er dagger, later in the possession of his son, Laurence Irving, was used by Sir Henry when he produced Boucicault’s version of the drama after Dumas The Corsican Brothers at the Lyceum on Saturday, the18th of September 1880 . Sir Henry played the dual title role and the drama ran for 190 performances until the following April 9th, latterly in a double bill with Tennyson’s The Cup.2 Ten years later he revived the drama also at the Lyceum but it had always been a popular piece with Victorians ever since Charles Kean played it  for the first time at the Princess’s in Oxford Street where the great Frenchman Charles Fechter (who created the original in Paris in 1850) also later took the title role. Sir John Martin Harvey was the last of the great ones to play the part .’

  1. The letterhead reads: The Thule Theatre Gallery. The Thule Press. Barry Duncan 11, Saint Martins Court, London WC2. Tel: Temple Bar 1741.
  2. The Cup only had a comparatively short running time, hence the decision by Irving to double up the Poet Laureate’s somewhat stodgy two-acter with popular rip-roaring melodrama . It must have made for a long evening. – Editor.



J. B. Booth.

In his 1929 memoirs this gossipy observer of the London theatrical scene describes rehearsals at the Lyceum.

‘A comedian—he has over-acted badly—approaches the Chief for criticism.
“Splendid, my boy, splendid,” jerks the great man, “ but why not a red- hot poker—eh—eh?”
A young actress passes him . “Very nice frock—very nice indeed,” he comments. “What’s it for?”
“I’m going to join a luncheon party after the rehearsal,” she replies nervously.
“Go at once, my dear,” is the unexpected retort. “Don’t let the rehearsal detain you. But, tomorrow—come in your working clothes— with your mind full of work!”
But a battle royal has been going on between Terriss, the ideal jeune premier, and Seymour Lucas, the designer of the costumes.
“What is it?” demands Irving, and it appears that as the portly Henry VIII Terriss is to sacrifice his beautiful figure and be well padded. But Terriss will not have it.
“Don’t be a fool, Bill,” says Irving shortly. “Henry had a stomach—play him with a stomach!”
“I’m damned if I will!” explodes Terriss. “It’s more than my reputation is worth!”’

Submitted by Richard Briers



Richard Mangan’s piece in last month’s First Knight on the Irving Centenary celebrations of 193 8 included the following:

The impresario Percy Burton…and Bram Stoker hurried to the Midland Hotel. ‘We found Sir Henry propped up in one of the hall chairs,’ said Burton. ‘He seemed to be unconscious. Stoker and I lifted him from the chair and laid him on the floor. It should have been done when he collapsed to allow him to breathe more freely. When the doctor arrived he listened just for one moment with his stethoscope and said “He has been dead two minutes.” Stoker and I carried Irving upstairs on a blanket.’

But Stoker himself, in his Personal Reminiscences of Henry Irving (1906, vol II, pp356-8) describes the scene quite differently:

In the hall were some twenty men grouped round Irving who lay at full length on the floor. One of the doctors, there were three of them there then, told me quietly that he was dead. He had died just two minutes b efore…Then w e carried him upstairs to his room and laid him on his bed.

Laurence Irving, in his Henry Irving (1951, p 671) gives yet another version:

As he entered the hotel he stumbled, but Shepherd (sic) caught him and helped him to the inner hall. ‘That chair…!’ he gasped, pointing to the nearest one. He sat down to rest for a moment. His tired heart no longer sustained the fight for breath. Losing consciousness, he slipped from the chair to the ground. A country doctor, who had been at the play and had missed his train, was having a drink in the manager’ s private room. Hearing someone call for a doctor, he went at once into the hall. An old gentleman, whom he did not recognise, lay unconscious on the floor; his head was supported b y a frail little fellow who was quietly weeping.

Laurence Irving describes ‘Shepherd’ as Loveday’s assistant and messenger; Stoker says that Mr Sheppard was ‘ one of my personal assistants who always attended to Irving’s private matters.’ The ‘frail little fellow’ was Walter Collinson, HI’s long-serving dresser. See FK vol 9 no. 2 (December 2005) for further information on Irving’s death in articles by Sir Michael Davies and Donald Walker.



31 January, 1938

In an article to celebrate the centenary of Irving’s birth Sir John Martin-Harvey recalls HI’s comment to William Gillette who, despite being fifty, announced that he would play Hamlet for the first time. ‘Good God!’ said HI. ‘How do you know you won’t do yourself a grievous physical injury?’ Sir John continues:

‘I think there must have been something other than irony in his apparently caustic comment. If it had not possessed that “not analysable” quality of complicity, I doubt whether children would have been drawn to him as they undoubtedly were. A humorous instance occurred when he was playing the part of Mephistopheles. He was wont, in loitering about the market place with Faust, to approach a woman carrying a baby in her arms. The mother, when the devil offered to caress the child, was instructed to snatch her aside, while the child was to shrink in horror at the touch of the evil one. And indeed there seemed enough evil in the baleful eye of Mephistopheles to terrify any innocent. Not at all. The child st retched out her arms to him. So persistent was this display of affection that the business had to be cut out. Satan’s allures, however, still held the little one, and one night, when at the end of the act Irving stood in the centre of the stage acknowledging the applause of the audience, she escaped from her mother’s hands and, trotting forth from the wings , threw her podgy arms affectionately round the satanic knees and held on, not to be dislodged even when Mephistopheles patted her head with a whispered “ Little devil”!’


This online organisation plans to publish articles and theses on all aspects of fin de siécle theatre under the title Upstage. Contributions are invited . For details contact



Sunday, 7 February

Irving Statue, Charing Cross Road
Laying of Birthday Wreath…….2.30pm
Concert Artistes’ Association
20 Bedford Street, London

Annual General Meeting………..3.00pm

Chitty-McKee Lecture……………4.00pm

Speaker: Michael G aunt
An Unrequited Profession

May – details t.b.a.

Westminster Reference Library

Illustrated talk by Catherine Leonard on the RSC’s Costume Collection including costumes worn by H I and Ellen Terry.

Saturday, 19 June, at 2.00pm

Kensal Green Cemetery, London – Conducted tour in conjunction with the Society for Theatre Research. £7 (including light refreshments) + £3 for a specially printed guide.

All communications to:
Michael Kilgarriff, Editor/Hon Sec
The Irving Society
10 Kings Avenue, London W5 2SH
tel & fax: 020 8566 8301

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