Autobiography, with Letters

By William Lyon Phelps | Go to book overview
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106 EMMA EAMES AND MUSIC

IN The Ring and the Book Browning unconsciously described this great prima donna in the phrase 'the good girl with the velvet in her voice.' In my chapter describing my bicycle trip in Europe in 1890 have mentioned the first time I saw Emma Eames singing 'Marguerite' in Paris. The next time I heard her was in Boston in 1892 when she sang with Jean and Edouard de Reszké. She was the best Marguerite and the best Elsa I have ever heard or seen. I heard her many times in the Metropolitan Opera House until her retirement which took place in the plenitude of her powers. Born in Maine, she was a Yankee with an inflexible will; and when she made up her mind to retire, she retired. In those days I worshipped from afar, but in 1924 when my wife and I were in Paris, we called upon her at her hotel in the Place Vendôme. In the course of general conversation I happened to remark that inopportune intruders and jovial back-slappers were as well-known and as unwelcome in Bible days as they are now. When she asked me to illustrate, I quoted from the Book of Proverbs: 'He that blesseth his friend with a loud voice, rising early in the morning, it shall be counted a curse to him.' She laughed and asked me if I could prove that was in the Bible. I said there would be no difficulty if she would provide a copy, which she immediately did, and I wondered then how many great prima donnas carry a Bible with them. This meeting in Paris led to many meetings later both in Paris and in New York, and I had the honour of

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