Case Of Percy Mackaye And His Father
( Originally Published 1911 )
NOT only has the drama an historical evolution, but, like any other human activity, it is subject to inherited traits, and is influenced by the spirit of the age. Ibsen believed in the theory of imbibing the thoughts that were in the air, rather than in limiting those thoughts by an amount of contradictory reading. There is no doubt, for instance, that through Mr. Carnegie's gift of ten millions of dollars for the furtherance of peace, many more people will be forced to think seriously on the subject, and already there is as much discussion about who will write the great peace drama, as about who will be the great American dramatist.
Subtle forces mould a man, but also evident circumstances. In "Famous Actor-Families in America," I suggested the possibilities of applying Galton's law of inheritance to the material I had gathered from various sources. The method might likewise serve as a measure in deter-mining how far Henry De Mille's career prompted his son, William, to follow the same bent, and in tracing those speculative characteristics of Steele Mackaye which are now evident in his son, Percy. Sons of fathers who hold positions in a profession are most likely to continue in that profession, but whereas young De Mille, furthered by Belasco, uses the theatre more as a business than as an art, young Mackaye is prone to forget the theatre in a commend-able, but over-serious, attitude toward art.
The theatre has always been subject to attack; it has always been threatened by poor quality and plethoric quantity. Young De Mille takes things as he finds them, making a reporter's use of a certain dramatic ability; young Mackaye is more morose than rebellious over the theatre, about which he speculates in ideal fashion. But, nevertheless, these men either have to conform to the conventions of the time and to the interests of the period, or else submit to the relentless verdict of the people.
In the days when the Madison Square Theatre, in West Twenty-fourth Street, New York, was the center of theatrical interest, and when the Mallory Brothers combined this business with that of issuing The Churchman, which still survives as a religious weekly, theatre managers were reading their own plays. Daly always gave personal attention to the manuscripts sent him. Palmer announced openly that he was not favorable to the native playwright. But, to judge by the personal note-book of Henry De Mille, who read plays with the assistance of Daniel Frohman, Franklin Sargent, and David Belasco, the manuscripts continued to flow into the office of the little playhouse. In three months, during 1883, some two hundred dramas by Americans were read, and the possible subjects were never accepted without material alteration. When Bronson Howard's "Young Mrs. Winthrop" was in preparation, it was rewritten in accordance with a multitude of suggestions, and was then handed over to Belasco, who had already evinced his remarkable gift for certain phases of stage management. The theatre of that day knew what it wanted, and the playwright was whipped into shape. The current papers were then as persistent in their attack upon the insipidity of the Madison Square drama, as critics are today upon the pornographic literature which passes for virile thinking.
I believe that both young De Mille and young Mackaye have an advantage in this race for dramatic honors; it remains to be seen whether they will profit by the past history of the theatre. Their fathers were writing at a time when their contemporaries in dramatic authorship were Bronson Howard, Bartley Campbell, George Jessop, Fred Marsden, A. C. Gunter, Fred Maeder, James J. McClosky, A. R. Cazauran, Edward Harrigan, and H. G. Carleton. William De Mille is greatly in advance of that period, as far as methods and interests are concerned; he is one of the numberless newspaper men who is content with effective incident, and he leaves speculation alone. In "Strongheart," which had a slight problem of Indian blood in it, he failed to do what he wished above all else to do; he originally intended to consider the theme inadequately treated by Edward Sheldon in "The Nigger" (1910). There is nothing pioneer, or even largely stimulating in young De Mille.
Percy Mackaye is of a different stature; he comes out of the past into the present, and his ear and heart have caught certain phrases which remind him of the Golden Age of Greece. De Mille shook from him the cap and gown of Columbia University; Mackaye walks in the shadow of Harvard, with an academic command of literature, and with a poetic gift which is not spontaneous, though it be elaborate and earnestly used. Being a poet, we must compare him with poets.
There is more hope for him than for Stephen Phillips, who has steadily declined in effectiveness since writing "Herod." They both are wedded to the past. Phillips gave us a Francesca, Mackaye a Jeanne D'Arc; Phillips wrote in the face of Goethe's "Faust," Mackaye in the face of Chaucer's "Canterbury Tales." Phillips turned to Ulysses, Mackaye to Sappho and Phaon. In other words, being poets who are using the theatre as a means of poetic communication, rather than as a high end in itself, they largely adhere to the Shakespeare precedent of finding inspiration for their plots outside of their native imaginations. Unlike John Masefield, whose "Pompey the Great" is a rewriting of history, and is tinged through and through with broad and colorful expressions of democratic strength, they unfold their dialogue in lines of haunting beauty but of reminiscent measure.
Yet Mr. Mackaye possesses a humor which is totally lacking in Phillips, a perspective of the present which allows of such sparkling cynicism as one detects in "Mater" and "Anti-Matrimony," even if it is not sufficiently analyzed to make him an invigorating critic of life, civic and personal.
He is a poet who has "murmurs and scents of the infinite seas," without any deep knowledge of the forces of existence. Stephen Phillips utters haunting lines of pure, sensuous beauty; Mackaye writes lines of equal beauty, but lacking in that simple, lyric passion which makes "Francesca da Rimini" so delicate. It strikes me that Mr. Mackaye as a poet is only a vehicle for unformed and inadequately founded social views. He has poetic quality rather than the abiding strength of the true poet. Occasion has done much to shape his course from the very day that his father locked him, a sixteen-year-old boy, in a room and told him to write a Storm Choral for a Columbian Exposition spectacular, before he could come out.
The theatre critic has from generation to generation deplored the fast decading drama, and has vainly searched for the art spot in the chaos of commercialism on which to rest his hopes and to raise his temple. Traveling through the slough, confident of a bright to-morrow, keen to the civic necessity of the play, Mr. Mackaye is searching for the art centre. He is intensely earnest, and the persistent questions in his prose work, which follow one after the other in logical order, point to undoubted weaknesses in the present theatrical system. But deep conviction on his part, however to be welcomed, does not result in a conviction on our part that endowment on the one hand is the only way to free the theatre of present methods, or that endowment on the other will create a better type of drama, especially of the poetic drama.
Mr. Mackaye's "The Playhouse and the Play" (1909) is a small volume of lectures which have been delivered before university bodies, and which are now slightly added to, but still unchanged as to intimate and personal style. The eye is immediately caught by the frequency of italicized lines; these might be taken as the measure of Mr. Mackaye's argument. The scope is purely local, except where the author's culture seeks to connect the present with Greek civilization. The book is idealistic, not soundly philosophic — idealism based on practical knowledge as a producing playwright. In the building of a civic theatre for the people, in the fitting of the drama to become a vehicle for the ideals of democracy, to clear the theatrical field of its present business standards is only one phase in the education of dramatic taste. I cannot see that divorcing art from money will immediately improve art or better the supply and demand — although it will clear the theatre atmosphere. Any one at all versed in things of the stage will note the consistency of Mr. Mackaye's "Law of Deterioration," based on such self-evident facts as the preponderance of the emotional demand over the intellectual, brought about by the antagonism between the rational aim of theatrical business and the rational aim of democratic art. Henry Arthur Jones established this condition more fully in his essay: "Our Modern Drama — Is It an Art or an Amusement?"
It is true that what the drama needs is to be subjected to an atmosphere of artistic rather than of business competition. Yet one might justly fear that the removal of the restraining hand of "profit and loss" would largely afford added hope to the dilettante, to the disappointed playwright. No suggestion has been offered as to whether or not there would be competent people to run the theatre, or where and how the theatre-goers would receive the education which would make them prefer Charles Rann Kennedy's "The Winterfeast" to comic opera, or Mr. Mackaye's "Mater" to vaudeville. We all deplore the benumbing hand of commercialism, recognizing that business methods, nevertheless, have raised the status of an actor from that of vagabondia to that of professionalism, but it all depends on what we mean by absolute freedom in the theatre to convince us as to whether absolute endowment will hasten the desired goal.
In his lectures on "The Drama of Democracy" and "The Dramatist as Citizen," Mr. Mackaye is most suggestive; if nothing else, his book will provoke discussion, and in my opinion that is what he wishes, for he is the dramatist beneath it all. The dissemination of whatever seeds of art may be in the American people through channels of least richness has blighted the product. There is the fine art for the few, and the vaudeville for the crowd. Conditions are chiefly responsible for the absence of evidences pointing to a fine art for the many, in other words — to a drama of democracy. Mr. Mackaye has the evil well indicated here; the poet in him feels the pulse of the people. He writes: "The status of the playhouse in society is as vital as the status of the university in society. The dignity and efficiency of the one demand the same safeguard against in-ward deterioration as the dignity and efficiency of the other. The functions of both are educative."
Young Mackaye sincerely desires to be a citizen, but his social philosophy is weak and his historical perspective is not sufficiently defined to lend authority to the definitions he frames or to the strictures he utters in his numerous lectures and talks. From his father he has learned the use of a certain largeness of scene; from the present he has drawn a certain restlessness and shapeless idealism which are waiting for systematizing. But he has not found himself, and the reason lies, not in the theatrical conditions which surround him, but in the inheritance and the tradition which are his — the inheritance of his father, and the tradition of Harvard University.
James Steele Mackaye was born in Buffalo during 1844, and at the age of seven moved to New York. His father was a man of some means, who had a home just outside of Buffalo, known as Castle Mackaye; while his grandfather, a Scotchman of sturdy build, wore the cloth, and died at the advanced age of one hundred and twenty, boasting of having lived one hundred years in the same parish.
The move to New York was due to legal connections of Mackaye's father, who likewise, as a man of affairs, once held the position of president of the Western Union Telegraph Company. It was not until he went to Paris, at the age of sixteen, that Steele turned his attention to the stage, and even then there was no opportunity to gratify his interest practically. At eighteen he came back to America, where for sixteen months he served in the army as a member of the Seventh Regiment. Reaching the age of twenty-two, and still intent on the stage, he procured a small engagement at the Old Bowery Theatre in New York, but soon after was sent abroad as an agent for buying pictures. Once more in Paris, he haunted the studios and the theatres, and chance took him in the path of François Delsarte, who recognized in him a startling likeness to his dead son, and who took him under his tutelage.
From now on, and for many years to come, Mackaye was to be an exponent of principles in acting which subdued the old-time ranting, and aimed at the reproduction of natural movement, and of what the papers of the time called "emotionally gentle manner." So closely did the youthful actor identify himself with the methods of his teacher, that he was known in the papers as "Delsarte Mackaye"; but no amount of ridicule could deter him from his set purpose. Later in life, Mackaye wrote:
"A man to be a true actor must not only possess the power to portray vividly the emotions which in any given situation would be natural to himself, but he must study the character of the man whom he impersonates, and then act as that man would act in a like situation. This is what Delsarte taught and what Rachel, Sontag, and Calvalho studied with him."
During 1874, Mackaye lectured extensively on the Delsarte system, speaking of the occult nature of emotion; of the science of expression, illustrated by pantomime; of the necessity for aesthetic gymnastics, illustrated by chromatic scales of emotion in the face and figure.
At that time there was something more or less theoretical in such a method; people were regarded as poseurs who adopted it. Hence it was that Mackaye was spoken of as a speculative dreamer. It is true that throughout life people said of him that his crude idealism was due to defects in his education; his fancies forced him into many experiments which could not possibly find practical fulfilment. But nevertheless, he was of a serious turn of mind, and of an experimental nature, and these characteristics combined to give him a distinct streak of philosophical speculation, which is detected in his utterances upon aesthetics.
When Delsarte found himself in the midst of the Franco-Prussian war, Mackaye was traveling in Switzerland (July, 1870); and on his return to America, hearing that his old friend was in a destitute condition, he immediately arranged for a lecture at Harvard University, the proceeds from which — amounting to ten thousand francs — were sent to Delsarte. The latter died in 1871, bequeathing to his pupil many unpublished manuscripts. There is no discounting Mackaye's enthusiasm over the Delsarte principles; his interest was not only deep, but his execution vivid, so much so that Forrest, listening to him, jumped up in that impetuous manner of his, and exclaimed: "By G--d, my noble boy, you have let in a flood of light!" Not only did he establish a school of acting which should uphold French naturalism, but his first venture in the theatrical field, the St. James Theatre, which opened in January, 1872, was popularly spoken of as the Delsarte house.
At the very outset it is well to emphasize the theatrical rashness of Mackaye and the philosophic severity of his criticism; it is well to note that his theory of acting affected his work, making it self-conscious; while his tendency to experiment made him limit or expand his ideas in mathematical ratio. A man of many failures, he was yet the fore-runner of diverse excellent theatrical innovations. His double stage for the Madison Square Theatre was not as perfect as the revolving platform at the New Theatre, but the principle of usefulness was practically the same. His Spectatorium may have fallen into ruins, carrying with it a fortune and the health of its conceiver, but it foreshadowed the modern Hippodrome. He never profited by failure, and his enthusiasm always made him forgetful of the fact that finance requires practical guarantee. Yet no man of the time, unless it was Henry De Mille, had better opportunity than he to know the physical features of the theatre.
His career as actor opened in 1872, when he appeared in "Monaldi," a Venetian story of the seventeenth century, based on Washington Allston's novel. His pale, classic features, his aquiline nose, his sensitive mouth, his intellectual and quiet expression, all tended to mark this tall, slender, and graceful man with distinction. I have before me a clipping which conveys an impression of Mackaye's nature beneath the practice of his Delsarte methods: "If he were paralyzed from the neck down, he could express more with his face than nine-tenths of justly celebrated actors could with all the appliances which nature and art have given them. His speechlessness is as crammed with expression as a thunder-cloud with electricity." There were stirring within him many conflicting interests; the author, actor, and lecturer did not meet on common ground. During part of 1872, Mackaye was in Paris, studying with Regnier, while in the winter of that year he remained in England, meeting Charles Reade, Wilkie Collins, and Tom Taylor. With the latter he was led into further experiment, collaborating in the writing of such plays as "A Radical Fool," "Clancarty," and "Arkwright's Wife." At this time, also, he was prompted to dramatize George Eliot's "Silas Marner"; the matter went as far as his meeting the novelist, but at the crucial point, Lewes, "the dragon," stepped in and put a stop to further negotiations. It was in the Spring of this year that Tom Taylor successfully urged Mackaye to appear as Hamlet, bringing to his interpretation all the originality of the Delsarte method (May 5, 1872). An edition of the play was issued with notes, and with indication of new stage business.
Evidently Mackaye was encouraged by his start, for I have the record of a booklet, printed in 1872 while he was in Paris, presenting "Extracts from the Press in Reference to the Three Months' Dramatic Season of James Steele Mackaye in New York City, from January 8 to April 1, 1872." During that period, Nym Crinkle appears to have come to his rescue, while he was being attacked for his persistency in the Delsarte methods. This was the season of the St. James Theatre, where, on February 1, 1872, Mackaye's "Marriage," an adaptation of Octave Feuillet's "Julie," was given a hearing.
Mackaye's novitiate in the art of playwriting was spent in collaboration and in adaptation, two of the dominant tendencies of the day. Not only this, but the men associated with the Madison Square Theatre reinforced the ideas presented by others. Being actors as well as writers, they knew wherein weak situations might be bettered. So that Mackaye's list of plays, while pointing to technical activity, does not impress one with any striking originality. Here again we find the man meeting with success, yet not sufficiently concentrated to be more than of temporary influence. As an author, he is to be credited with the following:
"Marriage" (1872); "Arkwright's Wife" (1873); "Clancarty" (1874, with Taylor); "Rose Michel" (1875, collaboration); "Queen and Woman" (1876, adaptation from Victor Hugo, with G. V. Pritchard); "Won at Last" (1877); "Through the Dark" (1878); "An Iron Will" (1879, later "Hazel Kirke," 1880); "A Fool's Errand" (1881, adaptation);
"Dakolar" (1884); "In Spite of All" (1885); "Rienzi" (1886, rewritten for Barrett); "Anarchy" (1887); "A Noble Rogue" (1888; also "Money Mad," modeled on the style of Hugo's "Jean Valjean") ; "Paul Kauvar" (known as "Anarchy").
The majority of these plays contained melodrama common to that period. It was a period when the physical outlines of the theatre were materially changing; when the old gas-jets, laboriously turned on at each performance, were now on the eve of being simultaneously ignited by an electric spark; when Ogden Doremus was experimenting with asbestos curtains, to give fireproof protection to the theatre; when Mackaye himself was designing orchestra chairs. It was the later day of the Boucicault drama, which had made demands upon the scenic pictures, introducing physical details that were regarded as marvelous. It was the time of Kate Claxton, Ida Vernon, Clara Morris, Montague, Gilbert, Holland, and Ponisi.
Mackaye fell readily into the atmosphere; he imbibed much of the Boucicault technique, without its flexibility, without its humor, without its easy grace and cheerfulness. And yet he was not considered a conservative; on the contrary, the papers regarded him very much as a defier of tradition, especially in comparison with Wallack and Daly. He was only rash, however, in the outward scope of the theatre; for his plays are constructed along conventional lines, with an emotionalism either akin to Boucicault or to Dumas' "Camille."
The five acts of " Won at Last" are epitomized graphically in the program as: "Act I, Ashes; Act II, Embers; Act III, Fire; Act IV, Flame; Act V, Fireside." "Hazel Kirke," which was first presented in 1879 under the title of "The Iron Will," bears all the characteristics of the romantic and melodramatic school of Boucicault. Indeed, critics never let Mackaye alone about the reminiscent touches to be found in his dramas. Earnest though he always was, and however high his ideals, he could not escape the sensationalism of Tennyson's and Charles Reade's "Dora"; of "Amy Robsart," and of "Rose Michel," which he helped to adapt.
Mackaye and De Mille were a great part of the force of the little Madison Square Theatre — a theatre whose greatest thorns seem to have been the Rev. Dr. G. S. Mallory and Marshall Mallory. They were astute business men, and understood how to obtain the best of any bargain. When Mackaye went to them, the understanding was that he was to relinquish all patents and copyrights for the period of ten years, and that he was to have five thousand dollars and profits under certain conditions. But the contract was not definite enough; on either side it might be disturbed at will. "Hazel Kirke" ran for nearly five hundred nights, with Mackaye every now and then assuming the rôle of Dunstan, but whenever the Mallorys had the suspicion that they were losing money, it was a signal for them to try to revoke their contracts. In fact, the theatre of that day was not so good as the theatre of the present. Boucicault was continually involved in litigation, and all dramatists had their successes pirated on every occasion. In 1881, according to one authority, four companies were enjoined for playing distorted versions of "Hazel Kirke."
However much Mackaye may have had the correct idea regarding the close treatment of drama, it was only in the expansiveness of outward detail that he dared depart from the conventional structure. No man realized more philosophically than he that a good play must contain some deep knowledge of human nature, some wide experience of life, and some surety in dealing with the craft of the stage. And he drew from himself and his own ambition, when he stated the requisites of a dramatist to be:
"Mechanical instinct, poetic fancy, sensitive sympathies, passionate fervor and vivid imagination, thoroughness in preparation, industry in elaboration, conscience in revision, courage in excision, and dominating all this, that breadth of mind which breeds humility, and that depth of heart whose understanding love goes out in charity to all mankind."
But though he would have had the process so, plays of the Daly period were not evolved; they were not intensive. Realism was just beginning to modify the romantic glow of "The Two Orphans" and "The Lady of Lyons," while it could hardly be claimed that violent action had been succeeded by rational themes. What Mackaye called "the focal purpose" of a play had not departed from French models or from French emotionalism. Howard, Belasco, De Mille, and Mackaye all came under its spell, the latter speculating upon a way of escape. "The master playwright," so he said, "combines the constructive faculty of the mechanic, and the analytical mind of a philosopher, with the aesthetic instinct of a poet, and the ethical ardor of an apostle."
There is no doubting the truth that Mackaye was serious-minded; in fact, he was continually active, a peculiar combination of a Swedenborgian, a theatrical Edison, and an undisciplined reader of Tyndall, Huxley, and Spencer. His interests lay between religion and civil engineering; he was diversely equipped, and a specialist only in what actual experience had taught him. But he never heeded experience for long, preferring to follow his imagination and his inventiveness. Like all dramatists, he was alive to the moment, and when, in 1887, his "Paul Kauvar" was presented, containing all the earmarks of its kind in flimsy sentiment, verboseness, and theatrical effect, he nevertheless claimed him-self to be deeply concerned in the problem of "anarchy," under which name the play was first known.
Notwithstanding the fact that the papers called "Paul Kauvar" "tumultuous and declamatory," and critics saw in it imitations of Bulwer, the play attracted wide attention, since there was beneath it a slight tinge of contemporaneousness, despite its Red Terror atmosphere. For Mackaye, being convinced that demagogues were spreading a spirit of anarchy among the masses, determined to show wherein tyranny was unjust, in the hopes of counteracting a revolutionary spirit which he felt existed among the people. To do this, he demanded a large spectacle, which drew from Nym Crinkle the remarks: "Mr. Steele Mackaye, whatever else he may be, is not a `lisping hawthorn bud.' He does n't embroider such napkins as the 'Abbé Constantin,' and he can't arrange such waxworks as `Elaine.' He can't stereo-scope an emotion, but he can incarnate it if you give him people enough."
The play was doubtless the outcome of certain ideas which were in the air. It was the old cry which was raised in regard to the influx of emigrants whose excessive poverty, together with the yoke of political oppression, drove them to the new country. But with them Mackaye felt that they brought certain foreign ideas which were inimical to the welfare of the American laborer. So it was that "Anarchy," besides being a melodramatic spectacular, was also a purpose play in the newspaper sense. In 1888, he wrote:
"In the struggle between capital and labor in this country, the grasping spirit of corporations and the demoralizing influence of political corruption are constantly affording the demagogue or the dreamer, who has nothing to lose and everything to gain by the destruction of civil order, an opportunity to preach anarchic doctrines with great plausibility. When I first discovered the large extent to which the passions of the working classes were being played upon by the fine phrases of these insidious foes of the American Republic, I determined to investigate, as carefully as circumstances would permit, the means by which these foreign influences were seeking to achieve their diabolic results in this country."
After his dispute with the Mallorys, Mr. Mackaye went over to the Lyceum Theatre, on Fourth Avenue, which playhouse soon began to gain prestige under Daniel Frohman, and where E. H. Sothern was on the eve of large recognition. Mackaye's enthusiasm, his charm of manner and his grace, made him well liked, and he was much more at ease in private talk than in acting. He was a charming conversationalist, and possessed what critics called a mind "ratiocinative, not poetic." Interested in painting, sculpture, teaching, managing, playwriting and inventing, he lacked system; he was devoid of concentration. Philosophically, he was under the influence of the transcendentalists, and even the mystic touches in Delsarte bore evidences of Catholic symbolism. His language, outside his plays, was marked by metaphysical distinctions, seen, for instance, in an excellent letter sent to his son from Chicago, on December 15, 1893, in answer to Percy's objections to changes made in some chorals he had written. The statements show first of all a serious attitude toward all creative work, as well as a modesty which was no small part of his charm; they are likewise evidences of a speculative mind which delighted in analyzing the absolute, the relative, and the conscious in terms of art. This is what he wished to do in his big Columbian spectacle prepared for his Spectatorium; every detail of it was to have philosophical value; even the choruses were to be representative of fine distinctions.
He felt that Percy, at an early age, should have grasped this in the writing of the poetic tasks set before him.
"Everything in the Cosmic order," he said, "is perfect or complete. When I speak of the Time Chorus, I mean that which voices the accomplishment of the past. . . . The Past Time Chorus, philosophically, represents the real world, and the Future Time Chorus represents the ideal world, while the Eternity Chorus represents the essential world — the world of principle or spirit. . . . The spirit of the whole is the perfect spirit — universal spirit — the divine spirit. The spirit of the past is the imperfect spirit and the demoniac spirit."
His distinctions of mortal and immortal consciousness clearly mark his scattered reading in metaphysical fields.
We now reach the culmination of Mr. Mackaye's life, at the time of the Chicago Exposition of 1893. All his theatrical extravagance overflowed and ran riot in the Columbian Celebration Company, organized to exploit his Spectatorium, a building devised for his entertainment, which was called " Spectatorus." This was a combination of grand scenic display with Oratorio, in which stage realism was to be carried to its highest perfection. It was to be a Hippodrome in size, with appliances of every conceivable power, so arranged as to create illusions of the noblest order. The stage, called a " Scenitorium", was to contain an immense reservoir for water effects, and around this were to be grouped Mackaye's remarkable inventions.
It is not necessary to go into details regarding this mammoth shell. In it were to be erected automatic combination stages, allowing of any variety of motions; wave-current makers, for the creation of currents of water which were to be regulated as to velocity and height; wind-current makers, so conceived as to create cyclone velocity from the gentlest breeze; weather-makers, for atmospheric effects, such as large rainbows; illuminoscopes, "by means of which the scope and character of the illumination of the scene can be instantly determined;" colorators, for tints according to the changing hours; nebulators, for cloud effects; and a luxauleator, which was to be a dazzling sheet of light to take the place of a curtain. Examining the large scope of Mackaye's idea, it is surprising how near he came to the conception of a Hippodrome. He aimed at mechanical duplication of Nature; mechanical acceleration of mystery. The production in such a huge machinery was to be called a "Spectatorio," which was " a species of performance celebrating a theme which may be either historic, fabulous, or fanciful. It illustrates its subjects by great pictures — whose stories are told in pantomime, and whose sentimental, ethical, or ideal meaning is celebrated or interpreted by music." On one hand he had in mind the most extravagant display of Barnum; on the other he accepted as a model Cody's Wild West Show. Undoubtedly the educational vastness of such an enterprise met with some enthusiasm and support; preparations actually began for the mounting of "The Great Discovery," which was to epitomize the life of Columbus. The financial figures of returns were chimerical, with the seating capacity of over ten thousand people, and the other sources of income to cover the initial expenditure of nearly a million dollars. The structure was to have occupied the northeastern corner of Jackson Park.
Any one in the theatre will understand that the very magnitude of the undertaking was enough to handicap business and to kill the man in control. Mackaye's whole nervous system went to pieces as he saw the money slipping from his hands. The Spectatorium was only a skeleton when the company went into the hands of a receiver because of depression in Wall Street. His brain teeming with projects, Mackaye was able, through a natural gift of persuasiveness, to carry any amount of enthusiasm. But now he was completely broken in health. He was given a benefit which enabled him to start on a trip to California, but on his way, while passing through Timpas, Colorado, he died aboard the train, on February 25, 1894.
In this career we find many evidences of the son, Percy, writer of dramas; of the son, James, instructor at Harvard, and author of a philosophical, sociological discussion of "The Economy of Happiness"; and of the son whose interest in nature is marked.' The speculative tendency is in the Mackaye blood, and a staid seriousness. Yet Percy has a keen sense of humor which he realized in "Mater" and in "Anti-Matrimony," but sedulously governs because of his Harvard training. Steele Mackaye, in his experiments, foreshadowed the present possibilities of the mechanical stage; he would have been greater had he possessed restraint. Curiously, his son, Percy, is handicapped by this very quality of restraint.