Mary Anderson (1859-1940) as Hermione from A Winter's Tale
Mary Anderson (Mrs de Navarro) as Hermione in 'The Winter's Tale'by Henry Herschel Hay Cameron (later The Cameron Studio) (son of photographer Julia Margaret Cameron), published by London Stereoscopic & Photographic Company, matte collodion printing-out paper panel card, 1887, NPG, UK
"There is so much beauty in the comedy of A Winter's Tale-so much thought, character, humour, philosophy, sweetly serene feeling and loveliness of poetic language-that the public ought to feel obliged to any one who successfully restores it to the stage, from which it usually is banished. The piece was written in the maturity of Shakespeare's marvellous powers, and indeed some of the Shakespearean scholars believe it to be the last work that fell from his hand. Human life, as depicted in A Winter's Tale, shows itself like what it always seems to be in the eyes of patient, tolerant, magnanimous experience-the eyes "that have kept watch o'er man's mortality"-for it is a scene of inexplicable contrasts and vicissitudes, seemingly the chaos of caprice and chance, yet always, in fact, beneficently overruled and guided to good ends. Human beings are shown in it as full of weakness; often as the puppets of laws that they do not understand and of universal propensities and impulses into which they never pause to inquire; almost always as objects of benignant pity. The woeful tangle of human existence is here viewed with half-cheerful, half-sad tolerance, yet with the hope and belief that all will come right at last. The mood of the comedy is pensive but radically sweet. The poet is like the forest in Emerson's subtle vision of the inherent exultation of nature:-
Sober, on a fund of joy, The woods at heart are glad.
Mary Anderson doubled the characters of Hermione and Perdita. This had not been conspicuously done until it was done by her, and her innovation, in that respect, was met with grave disapproval. The moment the subject is examined, however, objection to that method of procedure is dispelled. Hermione, as a dramatic person, disappears in the middle of the third act of Shakespeare's comedy and comes no more until the end of the piece, when she emerges as a statue. Her character has been entirely expressed and her part in the action of the drama has been substantially fulfilled before she disappears. There is no intermediate passion to be wrought to a climax, nor is there any intermediate mood, dramatically speaking, to be sustained. The dramatic environment, the dramatic necessities, are vastly unlike, for example, those of Lady Macbeth-one of the hardest of all parts to play well, because exhibited intermittently, at long intervals, yet steadily constrained by the necessity of cumulative excitement. The representative of Lady Macbeth must be identified with that character, whether on the stage or off, from the beginning of it to the end. Hermione, on the contrary, is at rest from the moment when she faints upon receiving information of the death of her boy. A lapse of sixteen years is assumed, and then, standing forth as a statue, she personifies majestic virtue and victorious fortitude. When she descends from the pedestal she silently embraces Leontes, speaks a few pious, maternal and tranquil lines (there are precisely seven of them in the original, but Mary Anderson added two, from "All's Well"), and embraces Perdita, whom she has not seen since the girl's earliest infancy. This is their only meeting, and little is sacrificed by the use of a substitute for the daughter in that scene. Perdita's brief apostrophe to the statue has to be cut, but it is not missed in the representation. The resemblance between mother and daughter heightens the effect of illusion, in its impress equally upon fancy and vision; and a more thorough elucidation is given than could be provided in any other way of the spirit of the comedy. It was a judicious and felicitous choice that the actress made when she selected those two characters, and the fact that her impersonation of them carried a practically disused Shakespearean comedy through a season of one hundred and fifty nights at the Lyceum Theatre in London furnishes an indorsement alike of her wisdom and her ability. She played in a stage version of the piece, in five acts, containing thirteen scenes, arranged by herself.
In Hermione is seen a type of the celestial nature in woman-infinite love, infinite charity, infinite patience. Such a nature is rare; but it is possible, it exists, and Shakespeare, who depicted everything, did not omit to portray that. To comprehend Hermione the observer must separate her, absolutely and finally, from association with the passions. Mrs. Jameson acutely and justly describes her character as exhibiting "dignity without pride, love without passion, and tenderness without weakness." That is exactly true. Hermione was not easily won, and the best thing known about Leontes is that at last she came to love him and that her love for him survived his cruel and wicked treatment, chastened him, reinstated him, and ultimately blessed him. Hermione suffers the utmost affliction that a good woman can suffer. Her boy dies, heart-broken, at the news of his mother's alleged disgrace. Her infant daughter is torn from her breast and cast forth to perish. Her husband becomes her enemy and persecutor. Her chastity is assailed and vilified. She is subjected to the bitter indignity of a public trial. It is no wonder that at last her brain reels and she falls as if stricken dead. The apparent anomaly is her survival for sixteen years, in lonely seclusion, and her emergence, after that, as anything but a forlorn shadow of her former self. The poet Shelley has recorded the truth that all great emotions either kill themselves or kill those who feel them. It is here, however, that the exceptional temperament of Hermione supplies an explanatory and needed qualification. Her emotions are never of a passionate kind. Her mind predominates. Her life is in the affections and therefore it is one of thought. She sees clearly the facts of her experience and condition, and she knows exactly how those facts look in the eyes of others. She is one of those persons who possess a keen and just prescience of events, who can look far into the future and discern those resultant consequences of the present which, under the operation of inexorable moral law, must inevitably ensue. Self-poised in the right and free from the disturbing force of impulse and desire, she can await the justice of time, she can live, and she can live in the tranquil patience of resignation. True majesty of the person is dependent on repose of the soul, and there can be no repose of the soul without moral rectitude and a far-reaching, comprehensive, wise vision of events. Mary Anderson embodied Hermione in accordance with that ideal. By the expression of her face and the tones of her voice, in a single speech, the actress placed beyond question her grasp of the character:-
Good my lords, I am not prone to weeping, as our sex commonly are- the want of which vain dew perchance shall dry your pities- but I have that honourable grief lodged here, which burns worse than tears drown.
The conspicuous, predominant, convincing artistic beauty in Mary Anderson's impersonation of Hermione was her realisation of the part, in figure, face, presence, demeanour, and temperament. She did not afflict her auditor with the painful sense of a person struggling upward toward an unattainable identity. She made you conscious of the presence of a queen. This, obviously, is the main thing-that the individuality shall be imperial, not merely wearing royal attire but being invested with the royal authenticity of divine endowment and consecration. Much emphasis has been placed by Shakespeare upon that attribute of innate grandeur. Leontes, at the opening of the trial scene, describes his accused wife as "the daughter of a king," and in the same scene her father is mentioned as the Emperor of Russia. The gentleman who, in act fifth, recounts to Autolycus the meeting between Leontes and his daughter Perdita especially notes "the majesty of the creature, in resemblance of the mother." Hermione herself, in the course of her vindication-expressed in one of the most noble and pathetic strains of poetical eloquence in our language-names herself "a great king's daughter," therein recalling those august and piteous words of Shakespeare's Katharine:-
We are a Queen, or long have thought so, certain the daughter of a king.
Poor old Antigonus, in his final soliloquy, recounting the vision of Hermione that had come upon him in the night, declares her to be a woman royal and grand not by descent only but by nature:-
I never saw a vessel of like sorrow, So filled and so becoming. In pure white robes, Like very sanctity, she did approach.
That image Mary Anderson embodied, and therefore the ideal of Shakespeare was made a living thing-that glorious ideal, in shaping which the great poet "from all that are took something good, to make a perfect woman." Toward Polixenes, in the first scene, her manner was wholly gracious, delicately playful, innocently kind, and purely frail. Her quiet archness at the question, "Will you go yet?" struck exactly the right key of Hermione's mood. With the baby prince Mamillius her frolic and banter, affectionate, free, and gay, were in a happy vein of feeling and humour. Her simple dignity, restraining both resentment and grief, in face of the injurious reproaches of Leontes, was entirely noble and right, and the pathetic words, "I never wished to see you sorry, now I trust I shall," could not have been spoken with more depth and intensity of grieved affection than were felt in her composed yet tremulous voice. The entrance, at the trial scene, was made with the stateliness natural to a queenly woman, and yet with a touch of pathos-the cold patience of despair. The delivery of Hermione's defensive speeches was profoundly earnest and touching. The simple cry of the mother's breaking heart, and the action of veiling her face and falling like one dead, upon the announcement of the prince's death, were perfect denotements of the collapse of a grief-stricken woman. The skill with which the actress, in the monument scene-which is all repose and no movement-contrived nevertheless to invest Hermione with steady vitality of action, and to imbue the crisis with a feverish air of suspense, was in a high degree significant of the personality of genius. For such a performance of Hermione Shakespeare himself has provided the sufficient summary and encomium:-
Women will love her, that she is a woman More worth than any man; Men that she is the rarest of all women.
It is one thing to say that Mary Anderson was better in Perdita than in Hermione, and another thing to say that the performance of Perdita was preferred. Everybody preferred it-even those who knew that it was not the better of the two; for everybody loves the sunshine more than the shade. Hermione means grief and endurance. Perdita means beautiful youth and happy love. It does not take long for an observer to choose between them. Suffering is not companionable. By her impersonation of Hermione the actress revealed her knowledge of the stern truth of life, its trials, its calamities, and the possible heroism of character under its sorrowful discipline. Into that identity she passed by the force of her imagination. The embodiment was majestic, tender, pitiable, transcendent, but its colour was the sombre colour of pensive melancholy and sad experience. That performance was the higher and more significant of the two. But the higher form of art is not always the most alluring-never the most alluring when youthful beauty smiles and rosy pleasure beckons another way. All hearts respond to happiness. By her presentment of Perdita the actress became the glittering image and incarnation of glorious youthful womanhood and fascinating joy. No exercise of the imagination was needful to her in that. There was an instantaneous correspondence between the part and the player. The embodiment was as natural as a sunbeam. Shakespeare has left no doubt about his meaning in Perdita. The speeches of all around her continually depict her fresh and piquant loveliness, her innate superiority, her superlative charm; while her behaviour and language as constantly show forth her nobility of soul. One of the subtlest side lights thrown upon the character is in the description of the manner in which Perdita heard the story of her mother's death-when "attentiveness wounded" her "till, from one sign of dolour to another, she did bleed tears." And of the fibre of her nature there is perhaps no finer indication than may be felt in her comment on old Camillo's worldly view of prosperity as a vital essential to the permanence of love:-
I think affliction may subdue the cheek, But not take in the mind.
In the thirty-seven plays of Shakespeare there is no strain of the poetry of sentiment and grace essentially sweeter than that which he has put into the mouth of Perdita; and poetry could not be more sweetly spoken than it was by Mary Anderson in that delicious scene of the distribution of the flowers. The actress evinced comprehension of the character in every fibre of its being, and she embodied it with the affluent vitality of splendid health and buoyant temperament-presenting a creature radiant with goodness and happiness, exquisite in natural refinement, piquant with archness, soft, innocent, and tender in confiding artlessness, and, while gleeful and triumphant in beautiful youth, gently touched with an intuitive pitying sense of the thorny aspects of this troubled world. The giving of the flowers completely bewitched her auditors. The startled yet proud endurance of the king's anger was in an equal degree captivating. Seldom has the stage displayed that rarest of all combinations, the passionate heart of a woman with the lovely simplicity of a child. Nothing could be more beautiful than she was to the eyes that followed her lithe figure through the merry mazes of her rustic dance-an achievement sharply in contrast with her usually statuesque manner. It "makes old hearts fresh" to see a spectacle of grace and joy, and that spectacle they saw then and will not forget. The value of those impersonations of Hermione and Perdita, viewing them as embodied interpretations of poetry was great, but they possessed a greater value and a higher significance as denotements of the guiding light, the cheering strength, the elevating loveliness of a noble human soul. They embodied the conception of the poet, but at the same time they illumined an actual incarnation of the divine spirit. They were like windows to a sacred temple, and through them you could look into the soul of a true woman-always a realm where thoughts are gliding angels, and feelings are the faces of seraphs, and sounds are the music of the harps of heaven." Excerpts from SHADOWS OF THE STAGE BY WILLIAM WINTER, New York MacMillan and Company and London 1893) MARY ANDERSON: HERMIONE.
Mary Anderson (Mrs de Navarro) by Alexander Bassano, half-plate glass negative, 1894, NPG, UK
How many times have you seen a beautiful face captured by a photographer's lens or glass plate in this case and wondered who she was or what her life was like? Since, the photographer is the son of Julia Margaret Cameron, I did some digging and couldn't find much but still she led an interesting life.
Portrait of Mary Anderson by G.F. Watts, 1885-7, Watts left it unfinished because Mary never arrived to sit for him. He painted it from memory. Exhibited at the Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle in 1905: 'Watts Loan Collection Exhibition', No. 27.
Mary Anderson, a native of California, was born at Sacramento, July 28, 1859. Her father, Charles Joseph Anderson, who died in 1863, aged twenty-nine, and was buried in Magnolia cemetery, Mobile, Alabama, was an officer in the service of the Southern Confederacy at the time of his death, and he is said to have been a handsome and dashing young man. Her mother, Marie Antoinette Leugers, was a native of Philadelphia. Her earlier years were passed in Louisville, whither she was taken in 1860, and she was there taught in a Roman Catholic school and reared in the Roman Catholic faith under the guidance of a Franciscan priest, Anthony Miller, her mother's uncle. She left school before she was fourteen years old and she went upon the stage before she was sixteen. She had while a child seen various theatrical performances, notably those given by Edwin Booth, and her mind had been strongly drawn toward the stage under the influence of those sights. The dramatic characters that she first studied were male characters-those of Hamlet, Wolsey, Richelieu, and Richard III.-and to those she added Schiller's Joan of Arc. She studied those parts privately, and she knew them all and knew them well. Professor Noble Butler, of Louisville, gave her instruction in English literature and elocution, and in 1874, at Cincinnati, Charlotte Cushman said a few encouraging words to her, and told her to persevere in following the stage, and to "begin at the top." George Vandenhoff gave her a few lessons before she came out, and then followed her début as Juliet, leading to her first regular engagement, which began at Barney Macaulay's Theatre, Louisville, January 20, 1876. From that time onward for thirteen years she was an actress,-never in a stock company but always as a star,-and her name became famous in Great Britain as well as America. She had eight seasons of steadily increasing prosperity on the American stage before she went abroad to act, and she became a favorite all over the United States. She filled three seasons at the Lyceum Theatre, London (from September 1, 1883, to April 5, 1884; from November 1, 1884, to April 25, 1885; and from September 10, 1887, to March 24, 1888), and her success there surpassed, in profit, that of any American actor who had appeared in England. She revived Romeo and Juliet with much splendor at the London Lyceum on November 1, 1884, and she restored A Winter's Tale to the stage, bringing forward that comedy on September 10, 1887, and carrying it through the season. She made several prosperous tours of the English provincial theatres, and established herself as a favourite actress in Edinburgh, Manchester, and Dublin. The repertory with which she gained fame and fortune included Juliet, Hermione, Perdita, Rosalind, Lady Macbeth, Julia, Bianca, Evadne, Parthenia, Pauline, The Countess, Galatea, Clarice, Ion, Meg Merrilies, Berthe, and the Duchess de Torrenueva. She incidentally acted a few other parts, Desdemona being one of them. Her distinctive achievements were in Shakespearean drama. She adopted into her repertory two plays by Tennyson, The Cup and The Falcon, but never produced them.
Ordered to rest after her breakdown, Mary Anderson visited England. In 1890 she married AntonioFernando de Navarro, an American sportsman and barrister of Basque extraction, who was a Papal Privy Chamberlain of the Sword and Cape. She became known as Mary Anderson de Navarro. They settled at Court Farm, Broadway, Worcestershire, where she cultivated an interest in music and became a noted hostess with a distinguished circle of musical, literary and ecclesiastical guests. She also gave birth to a son and a daughter in her happy marriage. Excerpted from New York Times article from 1913.