Page:Abroad with Mark Twain and Eugene Field.djvu/237

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DIRE CONSEQUENCES OF AMERICAN HORSEPLAY

At the time when Eugene Field was in London, Oscar Wilde and Henry Irving were undoubtedly leaders of the intellectual circles, and with both of these men Gene had quarreled. No open rupture, but he had played practical jokes on them—during their American tours—something an Englishmen never forgives. And if he wanted to, his friends and compatriots wouldn't let him.

It may be true or not that Henry Irving laughed at Gene's caricatures of himself, done before his very eyes, as well as behind his back in Chicago, but that doesn't argue that Irving did not resent Gene's merry-making. Irving had many eccentricities in person and speech, but still more dignity. And the dignity of his profession was very dear to his heart. Hence there was no companionship between the Chicago writer and the great English actor-manager while Gene was trying to establish himself in London. If he had come to London under an engagement as critic or editorial writer, it would have been different, but Gene was only a struggling literary man like so many others. So the Henry Irving literary circles were closed against the Chicago newspaper man as a matter of course.

But that didn't sour Gene's judgment of Irving's art. I remember a Macbeth night

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