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Gannon, Mary





SIR,—The brief obituary notice of Miss Mary Gannon, in the New York correspondence of last week’s Era, ended with this sentence:—“She has long been connected with Wallack’s Theatre, and was ever a favourite with our Theatre-goers.” Perhaps you will allow me to add a few lines to this tribute to the merits of an actress to whom any words of praise would do scant justice.

Miss Gannon was not only a favourite with American Theatre-goers, but she was unquestionably the best actress in her line in the United States. Now that she is gone there is nobody to take her place, just as there was nobody to compete with her while she lived. Miss Mary Gannon was to the New York Stage what Miss Marie Wilton is to the London Stage, and you can, therefore, readily imagine why her loss seems irreparable.

Years ago, at Mitchell’s Olympic, Miss Gannon, who was then a young, slender, beautiful woman, charmed the town with her burlesque signing, acting, and dancing; but it is not as a burlesque actress that she will be remembered. As she grew older her talents ripened and mellowed until she was without an equal in the young girls of the old comedies, or the coquettish widows of more modern plays. About all her impersonations there was a quaintness, a piquancy, and above all, a naturalness, which no other American actress in that line of business could ever rival, and which Miss Marie Wilton, alone, upon the London Stage, is able to equal. Indeed, the styles of these two ladies were so nearly the same that the comparison is quite justifiable.

I believe that Miss Gannon, like most of the actresses upon the American stage, was an Englishwoman by birth; but her theatrical reputation belongs entirely to the United States. Eclipsed in burlesque by Mrs. John Wood, in high comedy by Mrs. John Drew and Miss Laura Keene, and in serious characters by Mrs. John Sefton—the only American actress who were remarkable for the same naturalness of manner—Miss Gannon adopted a class of parts entirely distinct from any of those mentioned, and made them peculiarly her own. No one could deliver a bit of equivoque like Mary Gannon ; none could so well simulate the arch simplicity of sweet sixteen or the knowing innocence of young widowhood ; none could so well render a small part important by constant by-play and careful attention to minute details; none could so charmingly give a word a double meaning by the look or gesture which accompanied and emphasised it.

Of course, the New York audiences petted Miss Gannon, but they were never able to spoil her. She remained till the last a most conscientious artiste, who valued her work for its own sake as well as for the effect which it produced upon the public. She was a favourite with all Theatre-goers, as your corresponded states ; but she was also favourite with all actors and actresses. The whole Profession cordially appreciated her remarkable talents, and sincerely esteemed her for the warm, womanly heart which showed itself in all that she did, on or off the stage. It is not enough to say that she had not a single enemy; the truth is that no one could know her without becoming her friend. She has died too soon for the Theatrical Profession in America, which can ill spare so distinguished and admirable a member, and too soon, also, for her own reputation, which, increasing with every new part she impersonated, seemed still far from its legitimate culmination.

I have the honors to remain, &c., Stephen Fiske

London, March, 17th, 1868.

The Era 3/22/1868. Print.

Gannon, The Era, 3/22/1868