BOOTH’S THEATER—MR. JEFFERSON’S REAPPEARANCE.
Mr. Jefferson appeared at Booth’s Theater last night—returning to this stage after a considerable absence—and acted Rip Van Winkle. Two thousand persons, at the least, were in the house; and their honest and vigorous applause, upon the comedian’s first entrance and at familiar points in the course of the representation, testified, with unequivocal sincerity, to the affectionate admiration in which Mr. Jefferson is held and remembered. His personation of Rip Van Winkle has been more than once described in this journal, and description of it at this time would be superfluous. It ought to be said, though, as a record of fact and recognition of growth, that in poetic and spiritual quality—which, from the first, was its greatness and excelling charm—the performance has been advanced to higher beauty than ever. Diversity of opinion has seldom or never existed, as to the manner in which Mr. Jefferson executes his ideal; it is a manner as fresh, fluent, sparkling and natural as the lapse of a rippling brook through sunshine and shadow, beneath the blue skies and russet woods of Autumn; but with reference to the character of the ideal, critical thought has more than once been divided. It certainly, however, cannot now be the fault of the actor, if the drift of his work is mistaken. By added emphasis of the poetic attributes and by larger infusion of a high, weird, spiritual feeling, he has made his meaning so clear than nobody should miss it. The character is not removed from that human sympathy which its goodness, simplicity, child-like playfulness, droll humor, and forlorn weakness have everywhere gained by the force of irresistible attraction: it still wins a pensive smile for its quaint and harmless folly; a kindly glow of pity for its infirmity; a grateful affection, at once eager and dreamlike, for its gracious state of restful abstraction from the turmoils and the beaten ways of ordinary life; and many an honest drop of sorrow for tis meek, dejected, tremulous, venerable patience, amidst the wrecks and the woes of lonely and forgotten age: but its ideal, unearthly atmosphere is now reinforced with a stronger magnetism, and so the whole work is lifted higher than it ever was before, through the prismatic air of poetry into the white light of spiritual beauty. The quaintness, the tenderness and more than the poetic sublimation of Old Matthew in Wordsworth’s ballads are blended in this creation; and those who perceive only the humor of it, or view it in the cheap moral aspect of its possible relation to ideas on the subject of temperance, have but the faintest sense of its real significance and value. Mr. Jefferson does not give the Rip Van Winkle of Washington Irving at all, but a totally different and much higher type of man; and this lovely conception—only to be apprehended aright through facial expressions, tones of voice, felicities of spontaneous gesture, and by intuition as well as perceptive observance—is entirely his own. It had no model; unless, in phases of natural in as distinguished from supernatural action, Mr. Jefferson drew a lesson from the acting of his brother Charles Burke; and, though our stage has been afflicted with several dire and excruciating imitations, it certainly has no shadow. Its presence at this time, howsoever unnecessary to those who would like to see Mr. Jefferson in other characters—of which in his earlier career he has played more than most actors of the day—will give pleasure to many hundreds of play-goers who have not seen it, and affords to all of us an opportunity to refresh and expand our knowledge of a work of art, unique in humor and pathos, unequaled for a strange autumnal loveliness and a soothing charm, and likely soon to be withdrawn from our attention for a very long time.
The public enthusiasm, we say, was vehement. At the end of the first scene Mr. Jefferson was recalled upon the stage, as also he was at the end of the set, and of the play. The piece was well mounted, and the cast—which we printed on Thursday—proved judicious and efficient. Miss Mary Wells exerted her well-trained talents to unusually good effect as Gretchen, and Mr. Edward Irving, who acted Cockles, infused a quiet, droll humor into the part, such as it has seldom awakened. Miss Kitty Blanchard is to be commended for a neat and pleasing personation of Meenie Van Winkle; and Master Julian Reed, a bright boy, filed, to general acceptance, the parts of Young Hendrick and the Dwarf.
New-York Tribune, November 10, 1874.