Sunday, November 29, 2015

Ada C. Rehan (April 22,1857-January 8,1916) From Shakespeare to Lord Tennyson!

Ada C. Rehan, Cabinet Card

Shakespearean theatre actress Ada Rehan was born Delia Crehan on 22 April, 1857 in Shannon Street, County Limerick, Ireland, according to hospital records. Mistakenly, over time, her birth year has been recorded as 1860 and 1859. I am going with 1857. Her parents Thomas Crehan (1820-1890), a ship carpenter and his wife Harriet Crehan (nee Ryan) (1822-1901) were of the Church of Ireland faith. Little Delia had four siblings: William Crehan (1845-1903), Mary Kate Byron (1846-1920), Thomas Crehan (1850-1867) and Arthur Wesley Rehan (1860-1900). For reasons that are not recorded The Crehan’s left Ireland for the United States ending up in New York in the borough of Brooklyn when Delia was just five years old. According to: Ada Rehan: A Study by William Winter, printed privately in 1898; however, Limerick, Ireland Census records provide the year 1870 as the arrival of The Crehan’s to Brooklyn, New York, which would put little Delia at age thirteen. By this time her siblings were already acting when she decided to follow in their footsteps. It was her brother-in-law, Oliver Doud Byron who would help make her debut in 1873 as Clara in Across the Continent  in Newark, New Jersey. It was a small part and she stepped in for another performer who fell ill. It was around this time that a typographical error which dropped the first letter C from her surname, gave her the stage name Rehan or Ada C. Rehan. 

Ada Rehan and John Drew

It was in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where she met fellow actor, John Drew at Arch Street Theatre. He would become her longest professional acting partner. During the years 1873-5, she spent two seasons with Drew before being spotted by John Augustin Daly, an American Playwright and Theatre Manager. Daly knew talent when he saw it and he immediately could tell Ada C. Rehan was a star! When he saw her performance as Mary Standish in his plays Pique and also L’Assommoir at Olympic Theatre in New York, he asked her to join his theatre company. Daly’s Theatre was located on the southwest corner of Thirtieth Street and Broadway in New York City. It officially opened on September 17, 1879. It was on that stage where Ada made her first performance as Nelly Beers in Love’s Young Dream. Between the years 1879-1898 Rehan, under his mentorship, became one of the finest and most beloved comediennes and leading lady of Daly’s theatre company. They travelled touring throughout Europe. It was mainly in London’s Stratford-Upon-Avon at Daly’s London Theatre where she portrayed some of her most well known and adored Shakespearean comedic roles: Mrs. Ford, Katherine, Helena, Rosalind, Viola, Beatrice, and Sheridan’s Lady Teazle. 

 Ada Rehan as Katherine in Taming of the Shrew

The Pall Mall Gazette said of Ada Rehan as Katherine:
There are certain theatrical performances, like certain faces, which once seen are never forgotten, and such a one is Miss Ada Rehan’s rendering of the part of Katherine in “The Taming of the Shrew.” Miss Rehan indulges in no undue violence of voice or gesture to produce her effects. For her the heroine’s passion is only the more dangerous, because she never quite allows it to explode itself. It is always simmering and smoldering never quite ablaze.

 Ada Rehan as Rosalind in As You Like It

The LondonTimes, Ada Rehan as Rosalind:
It is a merry, arch, playful Rosalind she shows us, unmarked by the smallest dash of the prose of everyday life. Rosalind’s laugh is as pretty as the sound of a silver bell; her bounty to the world at large is as boundless as her love for Orlando. No suggestion of cynicism or strong-mindedness mars her gentle pleasantries. Without any other claim to public regard, and it has many, Mr. Daly’s production of “As You Like It” would still be memorable for Miss Rehan’s delightful embodiment of Rosalind, the best of the century.

 Dated April, 1884, Augustin Daly seated right side reading script to Daly Theatre Cast including Ada Rehan left center seated on the floor. 

Ada Rehan as Maid Marian in The Foresters, 1892

When it comes to the subject of Alfred Tennyson, I’m not sure many people realize he was also a playwright. For instance, his good friend Henry Irving produced Tennyson’s play Queen Mary in 1876, The Falcon after that, The Promise of May and Ellen Terry created the part of Camma in The Cup at the Lyceum Theatre in 1881.It was in 1891 that Tennyson’s close friends Henry Irving and his wife Ellen Terry recommended that he should meet Augustin Daly and let him produce his play The Foresters. The leading actress of the day was Ada Rehan; also, suggested by Irving and later Daly himself. The production of The Foresters was to take place in New York. However, for that to happen the theatre company needed Lord Tennyson’s complete approval. Alfred Tennyson wanted to meet Ada Rehan have a cast reading at his home Aldworth in Surrey and if he liked what he heard, then she would be approved and cast as lead Maid Marian.  Correspondence began between Augustin Daly and Alfred Tennyson’s son Hallam discussing structural theatrical changes. Some letters remain including one where Daly writes, “My dear Hallam Tennyson: Whatever title Lord Tennyson finally selects I will abide by. I give you my preference here: The Foresters: Robin Hood and Maid Marian. This copy is simply my suggestion for the acting play; or for the work as it can be acted understandingly. I may have omitted too much. Restore again what you positively wish to go in, but I think the shaping of the piece should stand as I give it here.”  

 Daly's Theatre also called Fift Avenue Theatre in NYC Broadway 24th Street in 1895

Augustin Daly, Producer and Theatre Manager

On September 20, 1891, Hallam replied to Daly,
“By all means prepare yourself for a visit any day early in October, and will you tell Miss Rehan that my Father and Mother would like her to stay here any Sunday night that would be convenient to her. There is a 7 o’clock train from London on Sunday. He would like to talk to her about Maid Marian. Ought not the play to be called ‘Robin Hood and Maid Marian’?’

When Daly’s manuscript arrived at Aldworth, Tennyson read it. It contained questions of copyright being submitted to counsel and a formal agreement was drawn up by Tennyson’s lawyers. Tennyson’s reply to Daly upon reading of his changes and more serious matters was to reply with his usual humour in prose:

“If I have overwrit, and laid

  It may be here, it may be there,

 The fat too thickly on with care

 To cut it down be not afraid” (Punch)

               “Air ‘Patience.’

Lately, aye and Daily, I the poet T-

Worked at a play which seemed to suit A.Daly.

 I must say at once ‘tis a kind of comedee,

  Just the thing for Daly, O!

Plot I don’t much care for,

Only language, therefore

Thought I, that’s the thing for Daly, O!”

Alfred Tennyson also wrote the songs for The Foresters and wrote to friend, Sir Arthur Sullivan of Gilbert and Sullivan asking to write the melodies. They might have clashed creatively and professionally but personally they seemed to get on well enough. It was agreed. Tennyson wrote the song, “There Is No Land Like England,” when he was nineteen. It was a chorus against the French he said. Before Christmas he wrote a new scene and a new song for Miss Rehan, ‘Love Flew In At The Window’ which she sings in the opening number.
 Original NYC program for The Foresters, March 26, 1892
By the time The Foresters debuted on the New York Stage of Daly’s Theatre on Saturday, March 26, 1892, there was such a buzz about it that the American people appreciated the beauty of the songs, the wise sayings about life and the woodlands. The play had a long and successful run. Eventually, word got back to Alfred Tennyson on the Isle of Wight he cabled Augustin Daly, “Warmest thanks to yourself and Miss Rehan and all who have taken so much trouble. Our congratulations upon the splendid success.                           Tennyson.”
 I just had to include this beautiful illustration of the interior lobby of The Daly Theatre
as it looked during 1892 in NYC when The Foresters was performed.
Ada Rehan sent Tennyson the following cable, “Let me add my congratulations to the many on the success of “The Foresters.” I cannot tell how delighted I was when I felt and saw, from the first, the joy it was giving to our large audience. Its charm is felt by all. Let me thank you for myself for the honor of playing your Maid Marian which I have learned to love, for while I am playing the part I feel all its beauty and simplicity and sweetness, which make me feel for the time a happier and a better woman. I am indeed proud of its great success, for your sake as well as my own.”

Ada Rehand travelled the world as an actress visiting her family in Brooklyn, New York, her whole life. She survived a cancer scare in 1905 in retirement and lived in Manhattan for her remaining days in my neighborhood on the Upper West Side. She lived here at 64 W.93rd street, NYC, between 1905-1916. She is buried at Greenwood Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York.

64 W.93rd Street, NYC, where Ada Rehan lived

Her grave Greenwood Cemetery, Brooklyn, NY.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Thanksgiving holiday season with Norman Rockwell!

Here in the United States, this Thursday, November 26, 2015 is Thanksgiving. A day of giving thanks and being surrounded by family and loved ones. For as long as I can remember, when it comes to artistic representations of this holiday the best is by Norman Rockwell.

Norman Percevel Rockwell (February 3, 1894 – November 8, 1978) 
American painter and illustrator

Born Norman Percevel Rockwell in New York City on February 3, 1894, Norman Rockwell knew at the age of 14 that he wanted to be an artist, and began taking classes at The New School of Art. By the age of 16, Rockwell was so intent on pursuing his passion that he dropped out of high school and enrolled at the National Academy of Design. He later transferred to the Art Students League of New York. Upon graduating, Rockwell found immediate work as an illustrator for Boys' Life magazine.

Talented at a young age, he received his first commission at age 17. In 1916, he created the first of 321 covers for The Saturday Evening Post. Rockwell's Americana images were loved by the public, but not embraced by critics. He created World War II posters and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1977. He died on November 8, 1978.

 By 1916, a 22-year-old Rockwell, newly married to his first wife, Irene O'Connor, had painted his first cover for The Saturday Evening Post—the beginning of a 47-year relationship with the iconic American magazine. In all, Rockwell painted 321 covers for the Post. Some of his most iconic covers included the 1927 celebration of Charles Lindbergh's crossing of the Atlantic. He also worked for other magazines, including Look, which in 1969 featured a Rockwell cover depicting the imprint of Neil Armstrong's left foot on the surface of the moon after the successful moon landing. In 1920, the Boy Scouts of America featured a Rockwell painting in its calendar. Rockwell continued to paint for the Boy Scouts for the rest of his life.

Norman Rockwell's Couple Uncrating Turkey (1921)
Copyright © 1921 The Literay Digest and Funk & Wagnalls 

 Freedom from want by Norman Rockwell From March 3, 1942

 For more information visit, Norman Rockwell Museum

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Welcome Back to London Julia Margaret Cameron (June 11, 1815-January 26, 1879)

Julia Margaret Cameron and her daughter 
Julia Hay Cameron by Unknown Photographer, 1845
Dimbola Lodge, Freshwater Bay, Isle of Wight, UK
National Media Museum, UK

With the arrival of two exhibits featuring the photography of British Nineteenth-Century Photographer, Julia Margaret Cameron, I wanted to share with you a brief description of both exhibits and links to them. Hopefully, you will have an opportunity to visit either or both of these exhibits. If you do, email me ( and please tell me all about it. I would greatly appreciate it. 

The above photograph is mine. I took it back in July of this year when I visited Mrs. Cameron's home, Dimbola Lodge on the Isle of Wight. Now an operating museum. On the first landing and top floor of Dimbola when you reach the top of the staircase and make that right hand turn to go down the corridor that leads you to her bedroom, you cast your eyes forward and are greeted with this beautifully captured mother/daughter moment. A rare photograph indeed. 
The card below the photograph reads: 

This is a copy of a rare daguerreotype of Julia aged 29 with her 7 year old daughter on her knee. Two inscriptions on the back of the image adds to its poignancy-one by the daughter, 'Feb.10th 1845. This for me to keep', and then-possibly added by her mother at a later date-'Given to my Julia by her request-her own choice.' Julia Hay Cameron died in childbirth in her early 30s, at which point the print appears to have been returned to her mother.  National Media Museum

Image: National Media Museum-Julia Margaret Cameron exhibit 

In the image above, encased in glass are two photographs of Julia Margaret Cameron at various stages of her life. In the center at the top is her camera lens and below it is her handwritten copy of what would have been a book she was writing on, 'Annals of My Glass House'. The history preserved in this one case alone is astonishing. Personally, I would love to be able to hold and read her personal writings of 'Glass House'. Who knows maybe one day! 

If you visit London and check out the Science Museum (National Media Museum) between now and March of 2016, you will find the above case waiting for your view.  Also, a brief overview of this fantastic exhibit, 

Julia Margaret Cameron: Influence and Intimacy (24/09/2015-28/03/2015)

Discover the vibrant life and works of pioneering photographer Julia Margaret Cameron in our new exhibition, Julia Margaret Cameron: Influence and Intimacy, marking the 200th anniversary of her birth.

Drawn entirely from the world-class National Photography Collection, the exhibition features the Herschel Album (1864), a sequence of 94 images which Cameron considered to be her finest work to date. 

Compiled by Cameron as a gift for her friend and mentor, the scientist Sir John Herschel, the album is comprised of Cameron’s bold, expressive portraits of influential friends, acquaintances and family members, including Alfred Tennyson and William Holman Hunt. 

The exhibition will also include rare images and objects such as the late photographs taken in Sri Lanka, her camera lens – the only surviving piece of her photographic equipment – and handwritten notes from her autobiography.- National Media Museum

For more information and exhibit details, Science Museum

Image from Victoria and Albert Museum

The second exhibit is a major one and much anticipated. It runs from 28 November 2015 - 21 February 2016. To mark the bicentenary of the birth of Julia Margaret Cameron (1815 - 1879), one of the most important and experimental photographers of the 19th century, the V&A will present over 100 of her photographs from the Museum’s collection-V&A.

This is the exhibit to catch by any means possible.  You see, one of Mrs. Cameron's first photograph exhibits made during her own lifetime, by much of her own means, was at a museum called, South Kensington Museum. Today, the old South Kensington Museum is better known as Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Well, just read her own words,

‘I write to ask you if you will… exhibit at the South Kensington Museum a set of Prints of my late series of Photographs that I intend should electrify you with delight and startle the world’
– Julia Margaret Cameron to Henry Cole, 21 February 1866

So, you see it is a fact that pioneering photographer, wife and mother, is coming home. Now, I just want to add one of my favorite photographs of Julia Margaret Cameron sitting with her daughter, Julia Hay Cameron reading...

Double portrait of Julia Margaret Cameron left sitting reading with a book on her lap
her daughter Julia Hay Cameron holds her hand sits at her side eyes closed
listening to her mother read to her. 
This photograph is believed to have been taken in the garden of 
Little Holland House around the time of her daughter, 'Juley's' engagement to
Charles Norman around 1858-9. Unknown photographer.

For more information on the Julia Margaret Cameron exhibit, V&A Museum

Sunday, November 15, 2015

A review of The Looking Glass House by Vanessa Tait

Author Vanessa Tait explains the inspiration behind her novel,
The Looking Glass House 

Oxford, 1862. As Mary Prickett takes up her post as governess to the daughters of the Dean of Christ Church, she is thrust into a strange new world. Mary is poor and plain and desperate for change but the little girls in her care see and understand far more than their naive new teacher. And there is another problem: Mary does not like children, especially the precocious Alice Liddell.

When Mary meets Charles Dodgson, the Christ Church mathematics tutor, at a party at the Deanery, she wonders if he may be the person to transform her life. Flattered by his attentions, Mary begins to believe that she could be more than just an overlooked, dowdy governess.

One sunny day, as Mary chaperones the Liddells on a punting trip, Mr Dodgson tells the story of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. But Mary is determined to become Mr Dodgson's muse - and will turn all the lives around her topsy-turvey in pursuit of her obsession.
·  Hardcover: 304 pages
·  Publisher: Corvus (2 July 2015)
·  Language: English
·  ISBN-10: 1782396543
·  ISBN-13: 978-1782396543

 The Liddell Sisters sitting outside the deanery garden of Christ Church, Oxford 

Mary Prickett, Governess Liddell Family

This is not your contemporary Alice in Wonderland themed novel. Oh, the story has the usual and most recognizable elements of course, until you start reading. For instance, author, Vanessa Tait introduces real Liddell family governess Mary Prickett. From her perspective and ever so direct vantage point, she takes us along on a journey inside the deanery, Christ Church, Oxford where we meet sisters Ina, Edith and Alice Liddell. Oxford is the main setting where all the action takes place because the sisters are the daughters of Dean of Christ Church, Oxford Henry Liddell and his wife, Mrs. Liddell, Lorina Hanna Liddell.  (Two photographs below: Left, Henry Liddell by Julia Margaret Cameron and on the right his wife, Mrs. Liddell)

What I enjoyed most about, The Looking Glass House is how involved Mrs. Liddell was with her daughters. She was at times overbearing in nature but Vanessa Tait brings her to life interestingly enough with the same 'pricklyness' of character as governess Mary Prickett. You get  a good sense of the father of the house, Henry Liddell who for the most part is mentioned in name and title only. He serves as a spectre almost coming and going to serve the purpose of setting, place and time. 

This novel is a story based upon real people, places and events. Yet, there is no clearly structred chronological timeline to the narration. Even though a year 1862 is mentioned in the opening, you will not find any other years specifically mentioned; not as chapter headings and not even throughout them.  I am so accustomed to having these types of novels including a date and a year next to each chapter heading that it is refereshing not to have them. It makes the reader's mind wander and wonder when certain events start to happen to the main focus Alice Liddell. This does not mean that you have to be familiar with Alice Liddell's real life but if you do just take note that nothing is clear cut for the reader. Just use your imagination and enjoy reading the story

Another aspect of the novel that I truly loved reading about was the subject of photography. As the novel progresses, Mr. and Mrs. Liddell come to meet 'Dodgson' a young man with a stammer when he speaks  and a lilt to his walk. He catches the eye of governess Mary Prickett who seems to be a bit keen on him but dare not admit it. She is not the most attractive of women, plain and still a spinster!  She has her prospects though but I shall leave it to the reader to see what happens to good old 'Pricks' as the girls call her.  

At the climax of the novel, Vanessa Tait addresses the 'questionable' aspect of Alice Liddell's life related to her 'friendship' with Charles Dodgson/Lewis Carroll. She does this cleverly and through Mrs. Liddell we see some tough love family mother-daughter moments. My heart broke along with Alice but I believe Mrs. Liddell did what a mother does to keep her family in tact I really hope everyone who loved Lewis Carroll's books and photographs reads, 'The Looking Glass House' and finds it captivating and moving. 
“Open your mouth and shut your eyes” by C.L. Dodgson/ Lewis Carroll, July 1860.

'Edith, you sit on the table. You, Ina, stand with your back to her, facing Alice. Good!' 

Mr. Dodgson handed Edith the bag of cherries to hold and gave one to Ina to dangle above Alice's mouth. Alice was to open her mouth as if in the process of receiving it. Then he disappeared into the darkroom that he had set up in the Deanery's broom cupboard, and reappeared carrying a glass plate, which he pushed into the back of the camera. It did seem magical, thought Mary, to be able to crystallize the exact image of a thing on to a photographic plate, as if spirits had got in.  

The camera was in front of Mary on it s three spindly legs, its great eye staring at the cathedral.  Mr. Dodgson stooped and pulled the hood over his shoulders, then reached round and pulled off the cap.  Mr. Dodgson fidgeted and stepped from foot to foot, each movement sending a minute ripple down his trouser legs.  How many seconds did it take to make a photograph? Time beat in a slow pulse at her temples." 

 "It seemed it was usual to follow Mr. Dodgson into the broom cupboard to see the photograph being brought to life, but when she went in,Mary found the place unrecognizable. It still smelt of dust, but in front of that now there was a tang of something else, a sharper smell. The brooms had been cleared away and glass funnels and trays stacked in their place. The skylight had been covered with a black square of material and a subterranean gloom hung over the room, in which Mr. Dodgson moved with an urgency and fluidity mary had not noticed before. He reached up and poured a strong-smelling liquid into one basin and quickly thrust the glass plate into it. 

They all stared down into the basin. Slowly something began to emerge, a light patch in the middle of the plate. 
'Oh look, here come my teeth!' said Alice. 'That is not your teeth, Alice, that is your hair. Your teeth and dress will be black, and your lips and hair white. It is all reversed - negative into positive, positive into negative.' 'Is that why the plate is called a glass negative? asked Ina.  'Exactly so, yes. When I make a print from it, it is all turned round back to normal.'

'We have something here, I think,' said Mr. Dodgson. 'This will make a fine photograph. Excellent even. A story, entire and complete.' He leant down and kissed Alice on the top of her head, then Ina, then Edith. 'For once to have achieved what I set out to do in the morning is most satisfying.' 

Thank you for my review copy, Corvus Books UK/Atlantic Books UK

The Looking Glass House by Vanessa Tait is now published in the UK. To purchase, Amazon UK

The US publishing date is April 1, 2016.

My Review of Arresting Beauty by Heather Cooper

‘Beggars can’t be choosers. They really can’t.’ Based on true historical events,  Arresting Beauty  follows the extraordinary story of Mary ...