As You Like It

Journals and Letters of Reginald, Viscount Esher

Henry Ainley and Lily Brayton in As You Like It, postcard

Henry Ainley and Lily Brayton in As You Like It, postcard

Source: Maurice V. Brett (ed.), Journals and Letters of Reginald, Viscount Esher (London: I. Nicholson & Watson, 1934-38), vol. 2, p. 271

Production: William Shakespeare, As You Like It, His Majesty’s Theatre, London, 31 December 1907

Text: January 2nd, 1908. Two nights ago we took Chat to see As you like it, and he was moved, as everyone must be, to see it interpreted as it is just now (by Oscar Asche, Lily Brayton and Ainley). The fairy spirit of Shakespeare, and his reading of the child nature which is in all men till they die, come floating through every scene of the lovely play. Laughter and tears alternate, and sweep through the audience. It is not only the soul of the Renaissance, but the spirit of eternal joy, which dominates the Forest of Arden.

Comments: Reginald Baliol Brett, second Viscount Esher (1852–1930) was a British historian and an influential Liberal politician. Oscar Asche‘s production of As You Like It at the His Majesty’s Theatre in London was notable for the large number of potted plants and leaves employed to give the illusion of a real forest. Brett saw the play on 31 December 1907.

Links: Copy at Hathi Trust

The Diary of Philip Hone

Source: Bayard Tuckerman (ed.), The Diary of Philip Hone, 1828-1851 (New York, Dodd, Mead, 1889), vol. 1, p. 238

Production: William Shakespeare, As You Like It, Park Theatre, New York, 9 December 1836

Text: Miss Ellen Tree made, this evening, her first appearance in America, at the Park Theatre, in the character of Rosalind in “As You Like It,” and Pauline in a sort of melodrama called “The Ransom.” Her Rosalind was a most fascinating performance, full of grace and refinement and the part well adapted to her style of acting. The play, admirable as it is, and abounding in Shakespeare’s finest passages and most touching sentiments, is usually tiresome in the performance, and can be best appreciated in the closet; but on this occasion sweet Rosalind was so ably supported by all the other characters that it went off delightfully. The charming debutante was well received by a prodigiously crowded house, and was saluted by cheers and waving of hats and handkerchiefs. I was struck again, as in London, by the great resemblance of Ellen Tree to my daughter Mary. Her profile is much like hers, and her smile so like that it almost overpowered my feelings; they are both pretty well off for nose, neither being of the kind called “snub” by any means; “quite to the contrary, I assure you,” as Temple Bowdoin says; but Mary’s eyes are finer and more expressive than Miss Tree’s. Fanny Kemble was right in this matter.

Comments: Philip Hone (1780-1851) was an American businessman and diarist, who was Mayor of New York 1825-1826. He saw Shakespeare‘s As You Like It at the Park Theatre, New York, 9 December 1836. The British actress Ellen Tree (1805-1880) was known professionally as Mrs Charles Kean after her marriage in 1842.

Links: Copy at Hathi Trust