George Du Maurier’s Trilby was the best-selling novel of the century. The illustrated text’s serialization in Harper’s Magazine (1894) sparked “Trilby mania” of astounding proportions in the United States.1 To capitalise on the fad, American manufacturers produced Trilby-branded cigars, waltzes, corsets, cocktails, perfumes, sausages, coiffures, and foot-shaped ice-cream confections.2 In the spring of 1895, Paul Potter’s stage adaptation of the novel was taken on a short US tour before opening in New York.3 The preeminent London character-actor and theatre manager Herbert Beerbohm Tree saw the show in Buffalo, went backstage, and bought the British rights.4 Tree returned to London in the summer of 1895 and embarked on rehearsals for what became one of his biggest hits.5
Tree recognized a great part for himself. Svengali, a lesser character in the novel, is significantly more prominent in Potter’s play. Recent commentators have recognized the pejorative depiction of Svengali as a despised Jew, “out of the mysterious East”6 (an epithet from the novel), and anti-Semitism was evident to playgoers. More notably, however, Victorian audiences subsumed Svengali’s accent, demeanour, and musicianship—markers of his Jewishness—to their perception of his ability to fascinate or, more specifically, to keep Trilby utterly in his thrall, converting her from a tone-deaf artists’ model to a singer of world renown. It is in the context of persistent interest in occult possession, spiritualism, ecstatic conversion, and phrenology that Trilby found a place in nineteenth-century repertoire. A variant on these weird and compelling practices was mesmerism, as it was called in the nineteenth century, originally given in medical demonstrations but by the mid-century also proliferating in commercial performances (“grotesque entertainments given in music halls for the delectation of the gaping multitude”7) and by amateur practitioners.8 The empirical basis of some of Trilby’s plot points was contentious, but as a stage entertainment its hypnotic pretext was hugely compelling.9Trilby marks two important developments in the popular and medical understanding of hypnosis: a wider knowledge among lay people about how to induce trance and a concern that a subject placed under hypnotic influence could be inappropriately manipulated.10 Can a hypnotist exert such powers? The play explores what would happen if a beautiful young woman was to fall so thoroughly under a hypnotist’s influence that she abandoned her life and became the automaton of another’s will.11 Young women were considered particularly susceptible (also soldiers, accustomed to taking orders).12 Critics asked, “What if such a power were possessed by an Anarchist or by a thief? And if by Svengali, why not by either or by both?”13
Two of Trilby’s great strengths as a play are its crossover between theatrical genres and utilization of several of the fine arts. Gothicism, horror, and the macabre waft through the scruffy artists’ studio, invade the gay surroundings of the Cirque des Bashibazouks, and recur through the eerie power of Svengali’s image, intermixing comedy with melodrama. Painting occupies the bohemians, they dance in anticipation of Trilby’s wedding, and act 3 is set in an opulent theatre lobby, yet it is music that conveys both affective mood and narrative developments. Sound is contrasted between artistic arrangements by great composers and the catchy melodies of popular tunesmiths; between the musically inept grisette and her transformed self on stage; and between the Paris cityscape of church bells and noëls and the foreground noise of tipsy revellers. All Victorian performance is multisensory, but Trilby exemplifies how fully this can operate in order for a clichéd romance plot of claptrap and balderdash to become compelling actable stuff.14
It also represents how a popular vehicle crosses over from the legitimate stage to music hall and cinema, fulfilling audience demand for a popular story in multiple ways. Following the 254 performances of the initial London run,the Haymarket company toured Trilby to suburban theatres, the provinces, and America. Tree briefly revived it numerous times between 1897 and 1912, made a film version with a happy ending in 1914, and played a severely truncated version in the music halls in 1915.15 By that time, nine other cinematic treatments had been made in Britain, the United States, Austria, and Denmark.16 By the end of the twentieth century, the number had doubled.
Trilby begins as a comedy and proceeds as a romance, utilizing the stage techniques of melodrama. Three British painters (Billee, Laird, and Taffy), all in love with Trilby, are immersed in the free-and-easy culture of Paris’s Latin Quarter. The happy union of Trilby and Billee is prevented by two forces: his uptight family (the Bagots) who object to Trilby’s upbringing in Paris, and Irish orphan fostered by a rag-picker, and her occupation as artists’ model; and the nefarious Svengali, who perceives Trilby’s potential as a singer and uses his hypnotic power to control her. Their community of friends, lower-class women and young Frenchmen slumming it among the bohemians, support the union; but while they can effect subterfuges to thwart Billee’s family, they are insufficiently aware of Svengali’s villainy to protect Trilby from his manipulation. A series of sensational moments mark the four-act play—Trilby’s hypnoses, Billee’s departure then reconciliation with Trilby, Mrs. Bagot’s refusal to permit the marriage, the friends’ discovery that Trilby has disappeared, reunification of the friends after many years, Svengali’s collapse, and Trilby’s encounter with her husband’s photograph—to give it a series of strong pictorial moments consonant with Du Maurier’s illustrations for the novel.17
Aspects of the story have many precursors; however, the Svengali-Trilby dyad has “slipped free” of the novel and the play to gain allegorical status in its own right.18 Mephistopheles utilized the “mystery and cunning” of black arts to exert demonic power over Gretchen;19 Ovid’s Pygmalion carved a statue which the gods endowed with life; Coppelia danced as an automaton, subject to alien will;20 and Sleeping Beauty awoke from an induced torpor to discover the treachery of her enchantress and the fidelity of her lover.21Trilby’s bohemian backdrop and reluctant in-laws were likened to the play La Dame aux camélias,22 and her trance-state resembles the heroine of the opera La sonnambula,23 but Svengali too had clearly recognizable nineteenth-century precursors. As a contemporaneous article points out, “the pushing, speculating Hebrew appears in Balzac. The pathetic figure of the typical world-wanderer in Eugène Sue. Dickens gave us Fagin … George Eliot, the profound, presents us with Daniel Deronda and Mordecai.”24 These various influences coalesce in Trilby into an indelible image of a male taking control over a female’s creativity. Thus, in an 1895 circus act, Marie Meers rode bareback dressed as Trilby, with Svengali as the ringmaster; the American impresarios David Belasco and Augustin Daly were said to control their star actresses Mrs. Leslie Carter and Ada Rehan like Svengali; George Edwardes held sway over the Gaiety Girls; and more recently Tommy Mottola was labelled Mariah Carey’s Svengali.25
In the nineteenth century, wealthy patrons commissioned portraits and sat for the artists; anyone else posing for painters was a “body for rent, if not for sale, within the space of the studio, which is not only a site of artistic creativity, but also of commercial exchange.”26 The relevance of this taint to Trilby is the topic of the play’s initial dialogue. Respectable young working-class women in the glove factory across the street are horrified that Trilby poses in the nude; she is also a thing apart from what Billee’s middle-class womenfolk hold dearest. Though her three British champions claim there is nothing untoward in her posing for them, Billee balks at the thought that Trilby poses for another artist upstairs. What is a twinge in Billee becomes outright revulsion in his mother. When his uncle, Rev. Bagot—almost reconciled to Trilby’s early life in the Latin Quarter and her later notoriety throughout Europe—expresses his final desperate reservation about Trilby’s suitability to join his family, he asks, “Has the lady been confirmed?” He reverts to true form: unable to impeach her occupation, he must insist that Trilby is a Christian (and a Church of England member). Her friend the Laird, a Scotsman, drily answers, “Probably not.” If he was raised in the Church of Scotland, the Laird would be a Presbyterian (though lapsed, no doubt), who disdains confirmation as well as English religious intolerance and prejudice disguised as religion. Determined to settle the issue once and for all, the Laird turns the ultimate weapon upon the clergyman’s bias: a fistful of calling cards, left by preeminent European heads of state, inquiring into Trilby’s health. Royalty—but perhaps only royalty—can trump English bigotry and middle-class moralizing.
The Laird’s indifference to religion and Rev. Bagot’s insistence upon it pass as character-establishing byplay, yet by implication this also complicates the terrain for depicting Svengali. Whereas Trilby’s presumed atheism is a threat to the Bagots, Svengali’s brush with apostasy highlights the indispensability of Judaism to his existence:27 many reviewers remark on some business in act 2—added by Tree to Potter’s play, with Du Maurier’s permission—in which Svengali triumphantly declares, “I am my own God,” laughing at religion. He is immediately toppled by a heart spasm. Asking God to let him live a little longer, he mutters a prayer extolling monotheism.28 Thus, Svengali’s hubris is answered by a wrathful god, and he reverts to a rote prayer in Hebrew. Marking Svengali as an impoverished musician, a proficient hypnotist, an eastern European (possibly from somewhere in the Austro-Hungarian Empire) or Russian (the postmarks on his portrait point to this), and a Jew makes him the consummate outsider, yet one who moves effortlessly among the bohemians of the Latin Quarter, a place almost the antithesis of England.29 His Jewishness is made synonymous with his lack of conscience towards god and people; contrasted with Trilby’s loving heart, Svengali becomes a greater threat than atheism per se.
The characters’ vocal bricolage maps Europe from east to west: Svengali and Trilby represent Europe’s geographic extremes, but the Laird’s Scottish burr, Taffy’s Welshness (implied by his nickname, but not proclaimed),30 and Zouzou’s comic protestations that “I no spik Angliche” also make much of Gaelic and Gallic difference in charting cultural pluralism. This places the Bagots—English, educated, and Anglican—as the normative centre, yet as a family even they are divided. The moral compass of chauvinism is skewed though there is never any doubt for an audience where virtue rests, for it is the business of melodrama to render right-thinking unmistakably. Svengali peppers his speech with German, speaks French Teutonically, and renders English with a stage-Jew lisp: this cannot be good. Mrs. Bagot acts out of fear for her son, but the audience is given ample cause to pass judgement on her brother, Rev. Bagot, who shows his scholar’s knowledge of Egyptian, Greek, and Roman erotica while furtively enjoying the sensualism that goes with this arcane knowledge. Thus, Potter melds nationality onto ethnicity and religion onto regionalism to depict English anticosmopolitanism as small minded and stifling at the same time that he makes Svengali a dangerous foreigner. Adapted in 1895 but set retrospectively in the 1850s, the height of the Hapsburg monarchy’s political threat to Britain,31Trilby allegorizes a more morally rigid time, when an expansionist enemy lurking to the east seemed as threatening as religious schisms at home and when continental instability made the importance of concord among the British peoples—English (the Bagots), Scottish (the Laird), Welsh (Taffy), and Irish (Trilby)—paramount.
As a young physician, Franz Anton Mesmer observed French priests performing exorcisms. He rejected the idea of demonical possession and pioneered the use of magnets to induce trance and then bring about physical and psychological cures. His extraordinary claims were investigated and discounted by the French government in 1784.32Mesmer claimed to manipulate electric currents passing between bodies (hence, the instigation of trance as induction in the practice of “animal magnetism”), but in 1831 the French Academy declared that assertion was the means of producing mesmeric effects rather than magnetism.33 By the end of the nineteenth century, Mesmer’s electric techniques were dismissed as “faith cures” though the scientific basis of suggestion as something legitimately efficacious while a subject is in deep relaxation had taken hold.34 James Braid, a Manchester practitioner, coined the term hypnotism in the 1840s. Braid’s hypnotism had the same applications and efficacy as mesmerism, minus the idea of magnetic fluids. Braid also desexualized induction by foregoing the physical “passes” performed by the hypnotist over the patient’s body and made no claim to impinge mind or will upon another person: a hypnotic patient must be a willing subject.35 Several aspects of hypnosis were debated for the remainder of the century: whether the inducer needed to be in proximity to the subject, the extent to which inductees retained volition and awareness while in trance,and the duration of the hypnotic state.36Trilby opts for the most lenient view of all controversies.
Three hypnotic stages were propounded by J.M. Charcot at the Salpêtrière asylum in the 1880s. In act 1, Svengali uses hypnotism to relieve Trilby’s headache, demonstrating to her friends the first two stages of hypnosis: drowsiness (reducing the subject’s ability to resist suggestions) and hypotaxy (the subject is obliged to obey all suggestions) as a medically documented therapeutic treatment for neuralgia.37 In act 2, his technique evolves—or rather, it diverges from accepted practice—as one reviewer noted:
Mr. Tree performs feats which, we suspect, even the ‘Nancy school’38 would repudiate. He hypnotizes Trilby from behind without her knowledge; in obedience to the wave of his long, spider-like arm he fetches her from a room, ‘off,’ where, presumably, she can neither see nor hear him. And most assuredly the stage Svengali theorizes incorrectly as to the nature of his powers. He believes, what was effectively disproved a hundred years ago, that a certain virtue, an ‘odic [hypothetical] force’ of some kind, passes from the hypnotizer to his patient.39 Svengali’s technique was erroneous, but flamboyance characterized the craft of hypnosis. In contrast to Mesmer’s powers of “fascination”—dramatized in 1788 by Elizabeth Inchbald (Animal Magnetism), illustrating the power of a magnetized wand40—Svengali’s application of hypnosis had some basis in medical literature. Indeed, Du Maurier’s idea for training a great singer may have come from a medical case study in Dr. Braid’s treatise Observations on Trance.41 Braid describes a patient, unknowledgeable about music and unilingual, who in a hypnotic trance could mimic the great soprano Jenny Lind note for note, in any language, so precisely that listeners “could not for some times imagine that there were two voices, so perfectly did they accord, both in musical tone and vocal pronunciations of Swiss, German, and Italian songs.” Her mirroring of an extemporized chromatic exercise was equally impressive.42 In 1847, John Newman reported another case: a flautist who could improvise beautifully but never recall a single note he played. A sleepwalker, this patient responded to a suggestion when in trance and then transcribed his impromptus perfectly.43 A third musical case is reported by Dr. Quackenbos, a distinguished American medical scientist, who treated a pianist. He instructed the patient under hypnosis “that the subliminal self is now in the ascendancy” and “that it will utter itself fearlessly, without diffidence, without thought of extraneous criticism, unerringly, feelingly, triumphantly.” The patient was then able to “read music, to interpret the contents, and to render the thought of feeling through the medium of piano tones evoked by dexterous fingers.”44
For one skeptical theatre critic, hypnotism was simply “an easy way of bringing anything you please to pass without troubling yourself to find an adequate reason for it.”45 As Gecko (Svengali’s faithful but ambivalent sidekick) explains at the moment that Svengali’s plot is undone,
GECKO (L.C.). There are two Trilbys. There is the Trilby you know, who cannot sing one note in tune.… And all at once this Svengali, this magician—
(All turn to Svengali, who is listening with a ghastly look on his face).
can with one look of his eye, one wave of his hand, turn her into another Trilby, and she becomes a mere singing machine, just the unconscious voice that Svengali sings with, so that when his Trilby is singing our Trilby has ceased to exist. Our Trilby is fast asleep—our Trilby is dead.
This is expedient, but it also resembles the seeming miracles performed by documented hypnotic subjects. Setting Trilby four decades in the past—contemporaneous with Braid and Neuman’s cases—helped to defray critique about the unscientific basis of the hypnotism. It mattered less that the stage truthfully represented all aspects of the phenomenon than that empathy was generated for Trilby and those who mourned her.
W.S. Gilbert, who was present at the London premiere, said, “Svengali’s make-up is marvelous—we could smell him.”46Tree based his physicalization on Du Maurier’s illustrations and the virtuoso violinist Nicolò Paganini (1782-1840).47 Forming a lean figure, his pallor made more eerie by an oft-stroked beard and long, oily, black, matted hair streaked with red, Tree’s Svengali suggested something unearthly, like the Flying Dutchman.48 Putty lent him a hooked nose, and India ink feathered onto his arms, throat, eyebrows, and the backs of his hands added to his hirsute unwholesomeness.49 Lit in a “play of grayish light and dark shadow on his features,” he was a stage villain like no other. He used “his long, octopus-like limbs,” “short mirthless laugh,” and “kick-out of the leg behind” himself to maximum effect; through repetition of these tics, he fascinated and repelled.50 His hands were talon-like: the scene with the elder Bagots, “in which the gesture of the hands by which it was conveyed that Trilby had sat for ‘the altogether’ was half comic and wholly sinister—a very triumph of expressiveness.”51 The loose beret and shoddy coat worn in the Latin Quarter gave way in act 3 to evening dress. Better groomed, he still utilized his defiant stare, harshly modulated voice “breaking occasionally into a shrill treble,” and “horrible little laugh” to convey rascality. Despite a more laboured gait from five years of exertion in mesmerizing Trilby, his face still exuded suppressed rage.52
In the novel, Svengali is the least credible character, yet in the stage adaptation, Tree’s “emotional” acting was proclaimed “amazingly realistic.”53 He “portrayed the character in its varying moods of tender passion, ghastly humour, and fierce malignity, dominated always by the ‘uncanny,’ with a vivid and realistic force which held the audience spellbound until the terrible death scene in the third act.”54 Already “a physical wreck, his life fast oozing from him,” yet thirsting for more vengeance, at the moment of death, he fell backward over a gilded table, his head inverted, eyes staring, tongue protruding, face bloodless, and arms spread as if crucified, forming “surely among the most creepy [effects] known to our contemporary theatre.”55 This was “no mere ogre of pantomime, but a living entity.”56Therein lay the power of Tree’s creation and the secret of Svengali’s longevity in the social imaginary. “His death was a most intensely tragic episode—appalling in its realism.”57
Parodies of Trilby, which are abundant, mimic details of the Haymarket production and in so doing highlight features that caught the public’s attention.58 Music is particularly prominent in this regard. In a burlesque at the Prince of Wales’s Theatre, Arthur Roberts (as Svengali) played a tiny pump organ.59 This poked fun at Tree’s exhibition of musical passion in performing Schubert’s Rosamunde, then “with a quick revulsion, when he sees Trilby is dead to such influences, he displays his cynical humour by a sudden lapse into a French popular lilt.”60 Tree’s digital gymnastics on the dummy keyboard were admired for their felicity amid “wild grandeur,”61 but Tree no more played the piano than Dorothea Baird (as Trilby) sang at the Cirque des Bashibazouks. Svengali’s songs were performed offstage by the musical director, Raymond Roze.62 Seeing the burlesque Svengali sweating and pedalling at the pump organ not only made him appear less like a concert artist but downgraded him to an accompanist in a parish church. The parody sends up the whole pretext of musical virtuosity.63
Thrillby, a parody published in 1896, takes a jab at the gothic pretext that Trilby remains in Svengali’s thrall after his death. Only Svengali can break the hypnotic bond, so the Laird declares that he will bring him back to life.
LAIRD (producing toy bagpipes). Wi’ these! (plays).
THRILBY (reviving and rising to her feet, à la Jessie Brown in the Relief of Lucknow).64Hush! hark! Dinna’ ye hear it? It’s the pibroch [bagpipe] o’ the Heelanders—the Slogan o’ the Campbells—the bonniest lilt o’ ae.65 One ethnic stereotype is indulged while another is lampooned.66 This demonstrates the endurance of Jessie Brown in cultural circulation at the same time that it points to the preposterousness of last-minute reprieves as a frequent recourse of melodrama. It is a form of reprieve that Trilby (novel and play) denies.
An evening at a nineteenth-century theatre was invariably a musical evening. Just as at the opera and ballet, dramas were preceded by overtures. Usually these were mood-setting classical or popular tunes selected by the conductor. At a melodrama, there may be specific music composed for the production, and these melodic motifs could be interwoven with other music. Potter has several characters introduce songs diegetically—as part of the action—most notably Trilby’s “Ben Bolt” but also the Laird’s “Willie Brew’d a Peck o’ Maut” and Svengali’s “Messieurs les étudiants,” “Annie Laurie,” and the “Last Rose of Summer,” most of which the musical director also wove into the act 1 overture. Act 2 has its noisy gallop for the entrance of the diners and quadrille for the dancers, ostensibly played by Svengali and Gecko onstage, and concludes with the strains of “O Holy Night” wafting in from the church organ across the road. Anticipation for the appearance of “La Svengali” in act 3 is established by “Hungarian National music played by [a] Gipsy band.” Trilby’s rendition of “Ben Bolt” is the highlight, but the act closes to the strains of “‘Au clair de la lune’ played by [an] Hungarian Orchestra during riot”.67 According to a music plot listing the orchestra’s cues, Tree scrupulously crafted the extradiegetic elements as well—music not called for within the action but supportive of it—throughout the performance. Certain scenes with Svengali were underscored with music by Hector Berlioz and Anton Rubinstein.68 The entr’acte between acts 1 and 2 consisted of a Chopin Impromptu, between acts 2 and 3 a fantasia of “Ben Bolt” was performed, and between acts 3 and 4 a medley of airs was reprised.
This made it all the more significant that act 4 commenced in silence. Later, hinting at Trilby’s renewed betrothal, an orchestral rendering of Schumann’s “Der Nussbaum” (“The Walnut-Tree”) underscored the action. This song, given by the composer to his bride on their wedding day, is about a bridegroom’s deferred arrival, though love is whispered by the walnut-tree and the bride listens until wafted into slumber. This is an excellent instance of how, whether played or sung onstage or provided by the orchestra, music conveys the major arcs of Trilby’s plot as well as the emotional valences of the play. Schubert’s “Adieu” (with words equally familiar to any audience member with a parlour piano: “Adieu! ‘tis love’s last greeting,/ The parting hour is come!”) was played during Trilby’s final scene, but this reinforced expectations hatched during the act 1 overture rather than informing even the densest spectator of a new plot twist. From the opening strains, it was hinted that someone will die. The lover of Annie Laurie croons that he would “lay me down and die” for her; the schoolmate in “Ben Bolt” explains that Alice lies in the churchyard; and in “The Last Rose of Summer” the companions have parted, and the only remaining rose blooms all alone in the bleak world. Lyrics were unnecessary accompaniments to such well-known favourites. As long as the tunes were played, the words resounded without being said.
The actors augmented the musical score with their vocalizations; these, in turn, were part of the orchestration of sound and silence. Trilby had a distinct voice when hypnotized, and in act 4, as she convalesced, she could barely raise a sound above a whisper. When Taffy and the Laird take Rev. Bagot offstage, leaving Trilby and Billee together, “the voice of Little Billee approaches her, meets it, and there is a kiss, and these two sit silent a very long while, while the others converse in whispers.”69 Her voice resumes a dreamy quality:
TRILBY. Billee, it’s real, is it not? All is going to be as it used to be? (Playfully) I’m afraid that Barbizon cottage is a tumble-down ruin now; but we’ll live in it, won’t we—ruin or no ruin? Oh, my love, my love, I’m so happy. And I thought at one time I was going to die.
He kisses her, and she is left alone. The dreaminess is broken when Svengali reclaims Trilby from beyond his grave. She screams. “Feet scuffle about, and a soft body drops lightly to the floor; then silence, as if death were near. The silence seems interminable. What is happening? Did I hear the faint echo of Svengali’s laugh, or was it imagination? The silence continues, no one stirs, no one breathes.”70 Trilby, alone with the audience, has expired. The audience see Trilby die, yet also know Billee’s fate.
Potter adapted the text from Du Maurier’s novel, Tree suggested further changes to Potter, additional adjustments were incorporated during rehearsals, more amendments were enacted during Tree’s out-of-town try-outs, and still more changes were made following the London premiere.71 Kate Terry Gielgud complained that by the time she saw it in London, Trilby was “a mere patchwork of the book, scraps taken haphazard and dumped down without any context—taking for granted that everyone has read the book and will fill up the gaps from memory,” yet the production satisfied critics as well as playgoers.72 Several typescripts for Trilby have passed from Tree’s possession to the Bristol Theatre Collection. They show how the patchwork became even more strained as Tree adapted the text for film and music hall after the turn of the century.
The following edition is based on two manuscripts for acts 1 and 2 and one version of acts 3 and 4 made for Tree’s company. The typescripts are augmented with holograph stage directions, alterations, additions, and excisions of dialogue, making this the most complete and faithful edition yet compiled of the text used in the first English production. The versions of acts 1 and 2 show evidence of being made one before the other though holograph changes to the earlier version are not always typed into the later text; some of the holograph changes are in both texts (in different handwriting), and some appear only in one or the other. One copy was probably kept by the prompter, the other for Tree, who directed.73 Additional plots with music and lighting cues (gas, electric, and limelight) not integrated into the prompt books suggest that though the manuscripts were updated in rehearsal, they are not the stage manager’s prompt book used during the run of the show.74 As notations of acting, this edition retains the stage manager’s shorthand for doorways (L.2 E. is stage left second entrance) and scenery (D.L.F. is downstage left flat) even when the code is obscure.
Trilby was licensed part-way into the provincial try-outs, and the Lord Chamberlain’s copy closely adheres to the Bristol Theatre Collection manuscripts, minus the holograph stage directions.75 This complicates dating the Bristol manuscripts. Using a prompt book fleshes out movements, and sometimes actors’ inflections, but fails to determine the text’s moment in time relative to the rehearsals.76 Furthermore, notations made in rehearsal were not necessarily retained for the whole run. Prompt books also call attention to the problem of attributing authorship over the mise-en-scène. In April 1896, this came to a head in the lawsuit Tree v. Bowkett which established that a copy-cat production had stolen the Haymarket’s stage arrangements; as a differentiation between the playwright’s work and the producing company’s, this is a landmark decision.77 Still, this is a rare opportunity to publish a working version of a script, reflective of rehearsal discoveries.
Published January-August 1894 in Harper’s. See also Liverpool Post, “Royal Court Theatre: ‘Trilby,’” 1 October 1895; and Jonathan Freedman, “Mania and the Middlebrow: The Case of Trilby,” in Lyrical Symbols and Narrative Transformations: Essays in Honor of Ralph Freedman, edited by Kathleen L. Komar and Ross Shideler(Columbia SC: Camden, 1998), 149-71.
2 See J.B. Gilder and J.D. Gilder, Trilbyana: The Rise and Progress of a Popular Novel (New York: The Critic Co., 1895), 25-26; and the Bailie, “Monday Gossip,” 18 September 1895. In Britain, an effusion of Trilby-themed music appeared in 1895-96: marches, waltzes, polkas, and other dance music, as well as ballads (including “Trilby Will be True,” “I’m Looking for Trilby!,” “Oh, Trilby, What Have You Done for Me?,” “Tricky Little Trilby,” “Trilby on the Brain,” and “Trilby, the French-Irish Girl”).
3 Paul Meredith Potter (1853-1921, a.k.a. Walter Arthur Maclean) was English-born but resided in the United States from 1878. He worked as a journalist for the New York Herald and the Chicago Tribune and began writing original plays around 1890. Trilby was his greatest success, but most of his subsequent plays were adapted from French originals.
4 Philip S. Stetson, “How Mr. Potter Wrote ‘Trilby,’” Metropolitan Magazine 1 (May 1895): 238; and Madeleine Bingham, “The Great Lover”: The Life and Art of Herbert Beerbohm Tree (London: Hamish Hamilton; 1978), 71.
5 Profits from Trilby allowed Tree to renovate His Majesty’s Theatre, where he became Lessee in 1897. Tracy C. Davis, The Economics of the British Stage, 1800-1914 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), 225.
6 Neil R. Davison, “‘The Jew’ as Homme/Femme-Fatale: Jewish (Art)ifice, Trilby, and Dreyfus,” Jewish Social Studies: History, Culture, and Society 8, no. 2-3 (2002): 73-111; Daniel Pick, Svengali’s Web: The Alien Encounter in Modern Culture (New Haven: Yale, 2000); and Dennis Denisoff, Aestheticism and Sexual Parody, 1840-1940 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), 83-93.
7Edinburgh Evening News, “‘Trilby’ at the Lyceum Theatre,” 24 September 1895.
8 John Hughes Bennett, The Mesmeric Mania of 1851, with a Physiological Explanation of the Phenomena Produced (Edinburgh and London: Sutherland and Knox; and Simpkin, Marhsall & Co., 1851), 6; and Alison Winter, Mesmerized: Powers of Mind in Victorian Britain (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998).
9 Fred Nadis, Wonder Shows: Performing Science, Magic, and Religion in America (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2005), 100; and Ernesto Laclau, On Populist Reason (London: Verso, 2005), 40-44.
10 The ethical issue was first raised by J. Liégneois in 1884: anyone could learn the techniques of invoking hypnotic trance, so what if they abused their power to command criminal or sexual behavior? See De la suggestion hypnotique dans ses rapports avec le droit civil et le droit criminal (Paris: Alphonse Picard, 1884), quoted in Jean-Roch Laurence and Campbell Perry, Hypnosis, Will, and Memory: A Psycho-Legal History (New York: Guildford Press, 1988), 226-27.
11 Charles Barney Cory, Hypnotism or Mesmerism (Boston: Alfred Mudge & Son, 1888), 20-21.
12 Ibid., 13-14; and W.H. J. Shaw and William Henry James, How to Hypnotise and Mesmerise: A Manual of Instruction in the History, Mysteries, Modes of Procedure and Methods of Mesmerism, or Animal Magnetism, etc. (Chicago: The Authors, 1896), 45.
13Manchester Courier, “‘Trilby’ at the Theatre Royal,” 9 September 1895.
14 For gothicism in the novel, see Ruth Bienstock Anolik, “The Infamous Svengali: George Du Maurier’s Satanic Jew,” in The Gothic Other: Racial and Social Constructions in the Literary Imagination, edited by Ruth Bienstock Anolike and Douglas L. Howard (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2004),163-93.
15Trilby was revived for short runs in 1897, 1898, 1902, 1903, 1905, 1905, 1907, 1909, and 1912. The 1914 film was directed by Harold Shaw and distributed by the London Film Company. Tree’s acting is analyzed in Jon Burrows, Legitimate Cinema: Theatre Stars in Silent British Films, 1908-1918 (Exeter: University of Exeter Press, 2003), 158-62. For the 1915 text, revised by Stanley Bell, see Bristol Theatre Collection HBT/000238/1.
16 Tree’s version was produced by Harold Shaw and included none of the original cast apart from Tree. See also the films Trilby and Little Billee (Biography 1896); Etta Lola, à la Trilby (Edison 1898); Trilby (Nordisk 1908); Trilby (Kinemacolor 1910) Trilby (Osterreichische-Ungarische Kinoindustri 1912); Trilby (Biography 1912); Trilby (Standard 1912); Trilby (Famous Players 1913); and Svengali der Hypnotiser (Weiner 1914).
17 An exhibition of Du Maurier’s illustrations for Trilby at the Fine Art Society, New Bond Street, coincided with the Haymarket premiere. Times, “Haymarket Theatre,” 31 October 1895.
18 Pick, Svengali’s Web, 6.
19Manchester Courier, “‘Trilby’ at the Theatre Royal,” 9 September 1895; Edinburgh Evening News, “‘Trilby’ at the Lyceum Theatre,” 24 September 1895; and Evening News, “‘Trilby,’” 31 October 1895.
20 Jane Goodall, Stage Presence (London: Routledge, 2008), 87-88.
21 Carole Silver, “On the Origin of Fairies: Victorians, Romantics, and Folk Belief,” Browning Institute Studies 14 (1986): 150.
22 Adapted into the opera La traviata, La Dame aux camélias chronicles a demi-mondaine who succumbs to illness and death after her lover’s father persuades her to renounce the relationship. Manchester Guardian, “Theatre Royal: Mr. Beerbohm Tree and the Haymarket Company in ‘Trilby,’” 9 September 1895; and Phyllis Weliver, “Music, Crowd Control and the Female Performer in Trilby,” in The Idea of Music in Victorian Fiction, edited by Sophie Fuller and Nicky Loseff (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2004), 69.
23 For a summary of La sonnambula, see the commentary on its burlesque, The Nigger’s Opera, performed by Christy’s Minstrels.
24 Alex Neuman, “The Significance of Svengali,” Illustrated American, 11 May 1895, 586. See Balzac’s Splendeurs et misères des courtisanes (A Harlot High and Low) and Ursule Mirouët, Sue’s Le Juif errant (The Wandering Jew), Dickens’s Oliver Twist, and George Eliot’s Daniel Deronda.
25 Gilder and Gilder, Trilbyana, 20-21; Kim Marra, Strange Duets: Impresarios & Actresses in the American Theatre, 1865-1914 (Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2005), 178, 203, 47, 56; Peter Bailey, “‘Naughty but Nice’: Musical Comedy and the Rhetoric of the Girl,” in The Edwardian Theatre, edited by M.R. Booth and J.H. Kaplan, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 39; and Lola Ogunnaike, “A Superstar Returns with Another New Self,” New York Times, 12 April 2005, B3.
26 Kay Dian Kriz, Slavery, Sugar, and the Culture of Refinement: Picturing the British West Indies, 1700-1840 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2008), 89.
27 Svengali is an exotic on the West End stage, not a Jew reconstituted into Englishness as Heidi Holder has traced in East End productions. Heidi Holder, “Nation and Neighbourhood, Jews and Englishmen: Location and Theatrical Ideology in Victorian London,” in The Performing Century: Nineteenth-Century Theatre’s History, edited by Tracy C. Davis and Peter Holland (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2007), 105-20.
28Liverpool Courier, “‘Trilby’ at the Court Theatre,” 1 October 1895; and Daily News (Brighton), “Music and the Drama: Brighton Theatre Royal,” 19 March 1897.
29 Another stage adaptation, licensed for the Theatre Royal Eastbourne in April 1896, hits up Svengali’s accent (and creepy foreignness) more than Potter’s. It exaggerates Svengali’s speech while making the Laird’s more phonetic. This is Trilby’s first mesmeric induction:
SVENGALI. Nein. She has ye Neuralgia. Perhaps I cure He’em. Sit you there mademoiselle. (She sits on raised seat.) Now you fix your eyes on the whites of mine. Look hard, intent so yat is well, keep your eyes fixed so.
(Makes passes gently up and down, music. Trilby eyes close gradually, he makes more passes, & pause).
BILLEE. He’s mesmerising her (aside).
SVENGALI. Was you pitter. Not so mosh pain, hein?
TRILBY. None at all now Monsieur. Thank Heaven and you!
SVENGALI. You gust set still, sleep, at my will.
(Trilby’s head sinks back her eyes close Svengali makes passes. Taffy and Laird R.C. enter).
TAFFY. What are you doing?
SVENGALI. Curing ye Neuralgia. (To Trilby) Wake—ask her now if she sleep or not.
LAIRD. Eh! this is verra strange: do you sleep young lassie?
British Library Add MS 53599, licence no. 501, fols. 25-26.
30 Presumed to derive from the river Taff, which runs through Cardiff. It has pejorative connotations, as in the verse (sung in the borderlands of England and Wales on St. David’s Day) that begins:
Taffy was a Welshman,
Taffy was a thief.
Taffy came to my house
And stole a leg of beef.
I went to Taffy’s house,
Taffy was in bed.
I picked up the leg of beef
And hit him on the head.
See the discussion of the political background to Ours.
James Stanley Grimes, Etherology and the Phreno-Philosophy of Mesmerism and Magic Eloquence: Including a New Philosophy of Sleep and of Consciousness, with a Review of the Pretensions of Phreno-Magnetism, Electro-Biology, &c. (Boston, Cambridge; London: J. Munroe and Company; Edward T. Whitfield, 1850), 45-49.
Ernest Hart, Hypnotism, Mermerism and the New Witchcraft (London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1896), 137-38, 242-43.
Cory, Hypnotism or Mesmerism, 8.
Winter, Mesmerized, 185.
Cory, Hypnotism or Mesmerism, 11; Lew Alexander Harraden, How to Give Hypnotic Exhibitions: With History of Hypnotism (Jackson, MI: Betts, 1900), 11; Laurence and Perry, Hypnosis, Will, and Memory,183, in reference to E. Aza, Hypnotisme et double conscience (Paris: F. Alcan, 1893); and B. Brown Williams, MD, Mental Alchemy: A Treatise on the Mind, Nervous System, Psychology, Magnetism, Mesmerism, and Diseases (New York: Fowlers and Wells, 1854), 167.
Shaw and James, How to Hypnotise, 13; Cory, Hypnotism or Mesmerism, 20-22; and Alan Gauld, A History of Hypnotism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), 311-13.
A.A. Liébeault’s practices at the hospital at Nancy became widely known through Hippolyte Bernheim’s 1884 volume De la suggestions dans l’état hypnotique et dans l’état de veille. By 1895, Nancy had overtaken Paris’s Salpêtrière asylum in medical opinion, validating hypnotherapy. Gauld, History of Hypnotism, 319-37.
Times, “Haymarket Theatre,” 31 October 1895.
The play remained in the English repertoire through the first half of the nineteenth century and was produced by Charles Dickens in 1857.
Paul Potter, who did research for his adaptation at New York’s Mercantile Library, made this attribution. See Stetson, “How Mr. Potter Wrote Trilby,” 239.
James Beard, Observations on Trance; or, Human Hybernation (London: John Churchill, 1850), 43.
John B. Newman, Fascination; or, the Philosophy of Charming, Illustrating the Principles of Life in Connection with Spirit and Matter (New York: Fowler & Wells, 1847), 153.
John Duncan Quackenbos, Hypnotism in Mental and Moral Culture (New York and London: Harper & Brothers, 1901), 245-46. Another possible antecedent for Trilby is the seduction by the conductor Charles Boscha of Anna Rivere Bishop, with whom he subsequently travelled the globe. Du Maurier knew of the scandal. Pick, Svengali’s Web, 98.
Spectator, “Haymarket Theatre: ‘Trilby,’” Star, 31 October 1895.
Hesketh Pearson, Beerbohm Tree: His Life and Laughter (London: Methuen, 1956), 90. For lists of attendees, see Evening News, “‘Trilby,’” 31 October 1895; and Daily News, “Drama: ‘Trilby’ at the Haymarket,” 31 October 1895.
Evening Citizen (Glasgow), “Theatres and Amusements: Mr. Tree at the Theatre-Royal,” 17 September 1895. Paganini was lanky and spider-like (possibly the result of a connective tissue disorder), which observers found unnerving.
The Flying Dutchman captained a spectral ship generally associated with portents of doom at sea. Freemans Journal,“‘Trilby’ at the Gaiety,” 8 October 1895. As a “stage Jew,” Svengali was also modelled on Shylock; however, late-Victorian portrayals of Shylock, for example Henry Irving’s, were sympathetic. Alan Hughes, “Henry Irving’s Tragedy of Shylock,” Educational Theatre Journal 24, no. 3 (1972): 248-64.
Morning Leader (New York), “A Famous Actor’s Make-up: How Mr. Tree Prepares for Svengali,” 4 January 1897.
Times, “Haymarket Theatre,” 31 October 1895; and Scotsman (Edinburgh), “Amusements: ‘Trilby’ at the Lyceum Theatre,” 24 September 1895.
Manchester Guardian, “Theatre Royal: Mr. Beerbohm Tree and the Haymarket Company in ‘Trilby,’” 9 September 1895.
Birmingham Mail, “Trilby at the Prince of Wales Theatre,” 6 October 1896; and Yorkshire Post, “‘Trilby’ in Leeds,” 11 September 1895. See also photographs in the Harvard Theatre Collection, Guy Little Photograph Collection at the Victoria and Albert Museum, and Bristol Theatre Collection.
Standard, “Haymarket Theatre,” 31 October 1895.
Scotsman (Edinburgh), “Glasgow,” 17 September 1895.
Evening Citizen (Glasgow), “Theatres and Amusements: Mr. Tree at the Theatre-Royal,” 17 September 1895; Scotsman, “Amusements: ‘Trilby’ at the Lyceum Theatre,” 24 September 1895; Dublin Evening Herald, “‘Trilby’ at the Gaiety,” 8 October 1895; and Kate Terry Gielgud, A Victorian Playgoer (London: Heinemann, 1980), 36.
New York Times, “The English Svengali,” 15 December 1896.
Freemans Journal, “‘Trilby’ at the Gaiety,” 8 October 1895.
Within weeks of the London premiere, Marie Lloyd sang a Trilby parody in the music halls, and burlesques were staged at the Opera Comique and Prince of Wales’s Theatres. Others were published.
Sketch, 4 December 1895, 295. This was billed as “A Trilby Triflet,” inserted into the second act of the melodrama Gentleman Joe, “with full organ, bagpipe, and cornet accompaniment” (Morning Post, 18 November 1895, 4).
This is in reference to the 1910 revival; however, when the production toured in 1896, the provincial press indicated that most of Tree’s business was the same as what was seen in the 1895 try-outs. Unless contradicted in successive sets of prompt books, it can be assumed that most business was stable even as casts changed. Dublin Daily Express, “Sir H. Beerbohm Tree at the Royal,” 14 May 1910.
Glasgow Weekly Herald, “‘Trilby’ at the Theatre Royal,” 21 September 1895.
Pearson, Beerbohm Tree, 90-91.
In the 1912 revival, Julia Neilson-Terry performed Trilby; she was the first actress cast in the role who could tackle “La Svengali’s” repertoire, so the staging was altered to display her abilities. In the middle of act 3, the stage darkened, and Svengali led Trilby before the curtain (as if at the Cirque) whereupon she sang the coloratura aria “Charmante oiseau” (from Félicien David’s La Perle du Brésil)and “Ben Bolt.” Daily News, “The Real Trilby: Miss Neilson-Terry’s Triumph,” 20 February 1912. Later in the act, when Trilby sings out of tune, Neilson-Terry was offstage as the 1895 text indicates. Stage, “His Majesty’s,” 22 February 1912.
See discussion of the last moments of Boucicault’s The Relief of Lucknow.
William Muskerry, with songs by F. Osmond Carr, Thrillby, a Shocker in One Scene and Several Spasms (London and New York: Samuel French; ), 14-15.
This was not the first time the joke succeeded: in the 1865 Strand burlesque L’Africaine, Anthropophagian natives enter to the strains of “The Cannibals are Coming.” Kurt Gänzl, British Musical Theatre vol. 1 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986) 5.
“Note on Music,” HBT/000054/59-62.
Rubinstein was a flamboyant and unpredictable virtuoso pianist. The selected musical motifs may have been from his opera The Demon. Both Felix Mendelssohn, a particularly intense conductor, and Rubinstein provide Jewish antecedents for Svengali’s musicianship. Berlioz was famously moody; his work for orchestra, voices, and chorus The Damnation of Faust may have been the work excerpted.
Woman, “Strange Impressions of ‘Trilby,’” 13 November 1895, 8.
An oil painting was used in the provincial try-outs and perhaps also at the London premiere, for Kate Terry Gielgud complains that he “put in an appearance as a portrait in a frame (deluged with limelight, of course), at the sight of which Trilby shrieks and presumably expires.” This contradicts the manuscript; however, act 4 is the least amended portion of the text. Gielgud, Victorian Playgoer, 36.
Bristol Theatre Collection HBT/000030/3 to 000030/6. There may have been a more complete rehearsal copy for acts 3 and 4, no longer extant. Actor’s part books (each containing one character’s lines and cues) substantiate that these manuscripts pertain to the 1895 production. The part books are uncatalogued, in the same collection. Two modern editions also derive from the Bristol Theatre Collection prompt books; however, Kilgariff’s is much truncated, and Rowell opted to transcribe the 1915 version (because it is easiest to read), incorporating aspects of earlier manuscripts unsystematically. Michael Kilgarrif, ed., The Golden Age of Melodrama: Twelve 19th Century Melodramas (London: Wolfe, 1974); and George Rowell, ed., Trilby and Other Plays (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996).
For information about the technical specifications, see the notes to the play in Rowell, Trilby and Other Plays, 290-96.
British Library Add MS 53582(C) licence no. 241, licensed on 16 September 1895.
See Catriona Mills, “Adapting the Familiar: The Penny-Weekly Serials of Eliza Winstanley on Stage in Suburban Theatres,” Nineteenth Century Theatre and Film 36, no. 1 (2009): 38.