from Elba. The actors who could play it as it should be played are so few that I can think of only one in this country--yourself. And a play is an investment of time that one doesn't like to make unless there's a fair certainty of being able to cast it.
But I should like to write it this winter and I should like to have you play it next fall, and so I'm writing to ask in a preliminary way what the chances are. Naturally I wouldn't want you to commit yourself to a play which isn't yet on paper, nor would I want you [to] go into my play in preference to one you liked better--you might like Elmer's better, for example--but I would want to be sure that you could be free to play a season in New York if you liked my script, and that the project was likely to interest you. I have faith enough in the story I have in mind, and in the underlying idea, to gamble on your willingness to play the Napoleon role once the play's written and you've read it.
I'm aware that Napoleon hasn't been a popular figure on the stage, and that he presents difficulties, but I think I know why he hasn't been popular, and I think there's a way around the difficulties. He had a likeable side which has been neglected, and his passion for power grew out of a youthful passion for freedom so inevitably that the steps can be traced without loss of sympathy with him. There was a long period when his youthful dream was buried under success and cynicism, but he came back to his vision in the end. It's this development, his gradual corruption by power and his awakening when it's too late that I'd try to dramatize.
I shant conceal that I await your reply with some anxiety, for though the subject has begun to take hold on me I won't dare to begin on it unless we can come to some tentative understanding. If you feel encouraging about the notion I'd plan to have the script ready to show you in March.