Autobiography, with Letters

By William Lyon Phelps | Go to book overview
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17
GOING TO THE THEATRE

MY mother never allowed me to attend any theatrical performances. As I had read all of Shakespeare at the age of twelve, I was eager to see a Shakespeare play, especially as Edwin Booth was then in his prime, and appeared annually in Hartford. Ordinarily, parents would be pleased if their children wished to see a play by Shakespeare; not so with ours. Finally, when I was eighteen, Thomas W. Keene, a melodramatic actor, came to Hartford to play Macbeth. I had a private interview with my father, and told him how passionately I desired to see this play. Finally he gave me fifty cents and said I might go, only I must say nothing about it to mother. 'We men must stand together' Accordingly, that night I sneaked off, and with some other boys sat in the gallery and for the first time in my life saw a play on the stage. I was thrilled. When I came home, I found my mother sitting up for me; she had discovered where I had been; her sorrow was great and sincere; she felt that I had committed some dreadful sin; I saw it was no use even to consider the matter further. It is difficult to write about this without giving a false impression of my mother. She was never grim, never harsh; she was all tenderness and also full of fun; but the theatre was wrong, and Christians did not deliberately do what they knew was wrong.

That autumn, however, I entered Yale; and as I had never promised that I would not go to the theatre, I went fairly often. I saw George C. Miln play Hamlet. It has often

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