Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Margaret Mather Died - and Tracking the Elusive Lovecraft

During Christmas week {1897}, Lovecraft was taken to the Opera House to see his first Shakespearean play, Cymbeline, featuring Margaret Mather as Imogen. (S T Joshi).

On April 8, 1898 the New York Times revealed that Mather had died.

Death of Margaret Mather
Collapsed While Playing in Charleston and Never Regained Consciousness.

"…she was playing "Cymbeline" … and had gotten as far as the cave scene … just after changing to the character of Page, it was noticed that she began to omit her lines and to act in an eccentric manner …". {She played both Imogen, and Page}.

Indeed, theoretically Lovecraft could have only seen Mather between January 1897 and April 1898, as we read, "Margaret Mather's last theatrical venture was an ornate and interesting production of Shakespeare's "Cymbeline" with a judicious reduction of the text and a tasteful scenic dress. This cost a great deal of money, and was first exhibited in New York, at Wallack's Theatre, in January 1897 …"

She was in Boston on 6 December 1897. The image from Providence News of Wednesday, 22 December 1897, page 3, confirms precisely that Lovecraft could only have seen the play Monday through Saturday, with the matiness being on Saturday. Barring other evidence, the Saturday matinee was probably part of Lovecraft's Christmas gift - the Phillips tended to celebrate on Christmas Eve for the family gathering.

The very next week, a different show was produced.

It's unlikely that young Howard was aware of Mather's death, or cared. He was from 25 December 1897 and onward engrossed in reproducing what he saw before his captive audience of family members.

It is good to be able to place a newspaper ad, and historical reality, to his memories of childhood.

One final note, notice that Robert Morrow is clearly stated as the manager. He's the one that gave the free tickets as his own Christmas gift to his neighbors, the Phillips.

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