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The Vault at PfaffsAn Archive of Art and Literature by the Bohemians of Antebellum New York
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              [newspaper clipping: first column]
	{For the New York Mercury.}
     O F  A N  E X � D R A M A T I S T.
  I have an affection for my species, and an
especial sympathy with those who are given,
like myself, to ladling their brains into their
stomachs ; I mean, in short, earning their daily
bread by writing.  The confession I am about
to make is, perhaps, a trifle humiliating ; for
it treats of my failure and defeat.  But as the
above-mentioned affection and sympathy are
stronger than my personal vanity in the mat-
ter, I shall tell the truth, the whole truth, and
nothing but the truth�hoping that my read-
ers may profit by the moral hereinafter con-
tained.  May they avoid the pit which re-
ceived me into its gaping jaws!
  In the summer of 1856, Frank Haycill and
I�fellow-Bohemians and brothers of the pen
�were suddenly fired with a desire for fame.
We had an idea that no happiness could be
greater than that of seeing our names on big
posters, covering the dead walls of the me-
tropolis.  Haycill had been on the stage in
London, and had written a little one-act piece
(�adapted� from the Chinese, and called, �I
Despise the Matron�), which had been pro-
duced at one of the minor theatres here.  This
pointed the way for the realization of our as-
pirations, and we considered it.
  I remember well one evening�a warm and
delicious one in July�as my friend and myself
strolled idly up Broadway, with vacant pock-
ets, and in seedy attire, Frank stopped, wheel-
ed around, and seized me by the arm�making
a melo-dramatic gesture as he did so.  At
first I thought that he was taken with a fit ;
then I imagined that he had come across a
stray quarter in an unexplored pocket, and
was about to propose beer.
 � Stop !�cried he, in a very English stage-
 � What is it ?�
 � See there ?�
  I looked, and saw a show-bill, in front of
Buncombe�s theatre, announcing a new play.
 � Well, what of it ?�
  Beer faded from my visions.
 � Let us write a play !�
 � Together ?�
 � Yes ;  Beaumont-and-Fletcher style of
thing, you know.�
  I enthusiastically agreed, and our doom was
  Not many evenings after, Haycill and I sat
in his modest apartment at the Ornithorynchus
Paradoxus in Spring street.  I was flush.  I
had paid my board, bought a pair of boots,
and had fifty cents remaining, so we ordered
up two pots of beer, and laid in a stock of
pipes (halfpenny-clay) and tobacco (Mrs. Mil-
 � I have a plot,�said Haycill,�that I think
would make a first-rate farce; I got it from a
story in Blackwood�a translation from the
German.  We can adapt it, I think, without
much trouble, and can easily get it produced.
I should think we��
   The remainder of the sentence was lost in
the beer-mug, which he had been gradually
raising to his lips.
  He told me the plot, and suggested the
alterations he had thought of.  Three sisters
were to be melted into one walking lady ; the
hero was to be made into a tremendous muff,
etc., etc.  I was charmed with the idea ; and, 
after reading the original story over, we set to
work.  Our candles waned�the beer grew low
�the tobacco diminished.  Occasionally, we
paused to discuss the working out of a scene,
or to connect the dialogue where one left off
and the other began ; and took a turn up and
down the room, or filled our pipes anew.  Un-
til midnight, however, we kept at it pretty
steadily ; and I sought my lofty attic in Grene
street�promising to come around again early
next morning�and feeling as if I had accom-
plished at least one good step on the high road
to fame and fortune.
  The next day, Haycill�s fecund brain con-
ceived a new idea.  It was just in the heat of
the last Presidential campaign, and my san-
guine partner had a plot for a little piece de
circonstance already hatched up, which should
be just the thing to run during the last few
weeks of the election excitement.  As I have
said, it was July.  November terminated the
campaign.  There was no time to be lost; so 
Haycill went on with his Germane-Blackwood

[newspaper clipping: second column]
farce, and I pitched into the pi�ce de circon-
  A week passed thus, and our first dramas
were finished.  We had copied them all out
fair and neat�corrected them�read them
aloud, to see how the dialogue ran ; and we
were proud.
  In fact, to give the dramatists their due,
these two pieces were clever, in a lively, frothy
way, and the �adapted� one had an excellent
  If I were to live to the very respectable age
that Mr. Methusaleh is reported to have ac-
quired, I don�t think I shall ever forget our
tremulously-triumphant excursion to Bruf-
fam�s theatre, where we hoped to dispose of
the Germano-Blackwood, which we had enti-
tled, �Most Insignificant Misconduct.� On its
elaborate title-page, we set forth (as a �flyer�)
that it was by Mr. Frank Haycill. �Author of
�I Despise the Matron.�etc., etc.� My name
also appeared; but, alas! not as the author of
any dramatic work whatever, save this.
  Mr. Bruffam received us like gentlemen�
being a gentleman himself�and spoke very
encouragingly.  He hardly thought he should
be able to use any one-act piece during that 
season; but still, he would be most happy to
read it.  Please call on Wednesday.
  We indulged in a large number of day-
dreams; we indulged in a large quantity of 
beer.  We threw up our tasks, mustered all
the money we could, and spent it and the af-
ternoon at Bellevue Gardens.
  On Wednesday, we called at the theatre.
Mr. Bruffam was not in.  We waited, and he
did not come.  We took a stroll, went home
to dinner, and called again.  He had been
there, but had gone.  We called the next day,
with similar success.  Finally, we were in-
formed, by a dingy little old man, who sat in
a dingy little old closet by the stage-door, that
the manager was in.  Would we send up our
names ?  We did so, and sat trembling, be-
tween hopes and fears, in the little closet, until
the little man returned.
 �Mr. Bruffam is on the stage.  Please to
come up.�
  We followed him through mouldy passages,
smelling of damp and gas; up rickety stairs,
strewn with shavings and dirt; across myste-
rious apartments, where old scenes, fragments
of bottles, plates, and hasty luncheons were
mingled with mournful coryph�es in dowdy
costume, awaiting rehearsal, and thus gained
the rear of the spacious stage, dimly lit by
sky-lights�encumbered with no end of ropes
and rigging�gloomy and obscure with the
shadows of immense flats and scenes, disposed
in picturesque disorder.
  The manager stood by a carpenter�s bench,
giving directions to some workmen.  He re-
ceived us at first�cheerily and affably.  He
had read our trifle; it was exceedingly clever ;
he was very much pleased with it, and felici-
tated us upon our talent.
  That monosyllable has ruined more hopes 
and blighted more aspirations than any other
in the language!
  But, as Mr. B. had first told us, he did not
see how he could produce any farces that sea-
son.  He intended to do the melo-drama and
spectacle business altogether.  Our piece was
too genteel and witty for his audience.  He
had left it at his house; but if we would call
there the next morning, he would return it
to us.
  We left the theatre, and walked many blocks
before either spoke a word.
  Still, it wasn�t a very discouraging refusal.
It might have been infinitely worse ; and, by
degrees, we recovered our elasticity.  The
next morning, we called at the manager�s
house, and received our manuscript back.
Our hopes were again raised to a towering
height, by a suggestion he made.
 �If you ever feel like writing a melo-drama,
gentlemen, or a burlesque, I shall be most
happy to have a sight of it ; for I believe you
can do clever things.�
  We left our farce at another theatre, went
back to Haycill�s room, ordered more beer and
tobacco, and sketched out the rough draught
of a plot for a melo-drama, which (had it ever
been written, accepted, and produced) could
not have failed to be the greatest hit of the
age.  Haycill still has the manuscript of this
sketch in his possession, and through his
kindness, I am enabled to lay it before my 
		ACT I.
  SMITH, an �sthetic carpenter, is educating himself
up to SOPHIA�S level (poor sinner!) to be able to marry
  JONES, a young middy, comes home from sea, in a
naval undress, recounts his adventures, a la Othello,
and thereby interests SOPHIA.
  SMITH, fired with love, ambition, and lemon-soda,
rushes off to join navy, and signs articles.
  (Mem : Introduce comic pedagogue and servant-
  After signing articles, SMITH gets SOPHIA to confess
her little affection for him.
  Despair, love, grief, etc.  Slow music.
	       T A B L E A U.
  Shipboard.  JONES and SMITH.  Call for volunteers
to take ammunition to distant point, under fire of ene-
my�at Vera Cruz.  JONES, SMITH, et als., volunteer.
 � Die for my country�SOPHIA, farewell !� Music.
  Cottage.  Old Mrs. SMITH.  SOPHIA.  Country ped-
ague. � Fears for the absent��� love him yet!��
� my boy !�
  Shipboard.  Arrest of SMITH.  Surprise.  Horror.
 � And must I submit to the felon�s doom !� Dirge.
	       T A B L E A U.
  Mansion.  SOPHIA.  SMITH�S mother comes with news
of SMITH�S cowardice, which JONES has calumniously
reported.  Horror.
  Country pedagogue makes an ass of himself as usual.
  Arrival of JONES.  Courts SOPHIA. �Now wilt thou
be my bride!  Ha! ha!� Repulse. �Rather would I
die. � Music.
  Intense grief of women.  Remorse of JONES.  Goes
to hotel�finds orders to report himself�is accused of
calumny toward SMITH.  Horror�soliloquy�� Boy-
hood Days.� Suicide.  Slow Music.
  Cottage.  SOPHIA and SMITH�S mother down in the
  Arrival of Smith, with epaulettes.  All cleared up.
 � Now will I be thy bride !� Fall into each other�s
arms promiscuously�pedagogue and servant ditto, in
corner.  General cry all round.
  It will be seen, from the style in which this
rough draught was written, that we had no
very great respect for the thrilling style of
blood-and-thunder drama.  Indeed, we had a
regular jollification over the preparation of it, 
and anticipated much fun in writing the play
  (I expect to see some keen writer for the
east side theatres make his fortune out of the
above plot ; so I give warning that it is already
copyrighted, more or less, and any dramatist
caught purloining it will be sued for assault
and battery !)
  During the hatching of this gigantic semi-
nautical melo-drama, we deposited our pi�ce de
circonstance, entitled � Who wouldn�t be a
President ?�with the (then) manager of Wa-
clo�s theatre; and, for a week, Haycill called
every day to see if he had read it.  The � Most
Insignificant Misconduct� had been ruthlessly
rejected by the manager of the place where
we had left it, and we concluded to introduce
a song�so that a lady then engaged at Bun-
combe�s could act in it.  The song I wrote in
a few minutes (Haycill�s genius never stooped 
to rhyme), and we too it direct to this lady,
that her opinion, if worth anything, might
have its weight with Buncombe.
  She read the piece, very kindly, and her
husband (Heaven bless him !�he�s dead now !)
treated us to some excellent brandy-and-water,
which came like balm to a wounded spirit�
for we had been � hard up�for several days.
He made two friends by that act of charity!
  The result was satisfactory.  The actress
liked the character she was to have very
much.  We told a little falsehood in saying
that we wrote it expressly for her�but such
white lies are very harmless.
  Then we carried it to Buncombe.
  Buncombe was not so affable as Bruffam.
He was busy and bothered with his new thea-

[newspaper clipping: third column]
tre, and received us�well, politely.  He said
he would read the piece and let us know on 
Thursday whether he wanted it or not.
  On Thursday we called.
 � I really have had no time to read it, gen-
tlemen!  Please call on Saturday.
  On Saturday we called.
 � I really have had no time to read it, gen-
tlemen!  Please call on Tuesday.�
  On Tuesday we called.
 � I really have had no time to read it, gen-
tlemen!  Please call on Friday.�
  And so on, for a fortnight.  In the mean-
while, the manager of Wacle�s theatre had
read � Who would�nt like to be a President,� and was
afraid to produce anything political, lest the
party prejudice of his audience might be hurt
�though we had taken care not to show any
favor to any one of the three candidates then
before the people.  We went to get the play
back, so as to try it somewhere else, and found
that it was lost!
  Haycill was furious.  He drank a fearful
quantity of liquor that night, and insisted on
going direct to the theatre with the amiable
intention of punching the manager�s head.  I,
being philosophical in my cups, argued  the
case with him until he went to sleep (I have
a gift of talking my hearers into a somnolent
condition), and when he awoke, he felt less bel-
ligerent.  For a long time, however, when he
had drank a drop too much, his ruling idea
was, that duty compelled him to inflict corpo-
real castigation upon the delinquent, who, by
the way, would hardly have made a mouthful
of him.
  All this while, being on the tenter-hooks of
expectation, and having almost daily calls to
make on Buncombe, we did not progress with
anything else.  We had our daily bread (and
beer) to earn from various papers and periodi-
cals, and found no time for the great melo-
  At length Buncombe met us, one morning,
with a smiling countenance.  He had read the
piece and was charmed with it.  With a curi-
ous honesty, for dramatists, we told him it
was �adapted,� and found that he had read the
original story.  He had thought, he said, at
the time, that it would make an excellent play.
 � You have done yourselves great credit,
gentlemen,� said he; � BUT���
  We trembled, and our jaws fell.
 � But why did you not adhere to the origi-
nal?  There were three sisters, if I remember,
instead of the one whom you introduce.�
  We said that the piece was so short�there
was so little room in a farce for many charac-
 � Now, see here,�said the manager, mop-
ping his rubicund face with a delicate cambric
handkerchief, � suppose you take it home, and
re-write it.�
  Our eyes glistened and our hearts throbbed.
 � Re-write it,� continued he, � so as to have
the three girls all in, and introduce some comic
characters�say a comic servant�broad fun
you know.  If you can do that, I shall be
delighted to read it again.
  We ran home with an insane joy in our
hearts, and I will wager a year�s receipts against
a brass-headed coffin-nail, that no two literary
Bohemians ever wrote more in the same length
of time than we did.  We plied our pens
nearly all night, and sometime during the next
day had the satisfaction of writing � Curtain�
at the foot of the last page of our fair copy.
  I do not remember much about this work.
I do not think it was astonishingly good�not
so lively as the first, I think�but probably
good enough to be got down the public throat.
I have seen many a worse play produced in
the theatres here since then, at all events�for
ours was written in English, at least, and some
of them are not.
  Well, we returned the manuscript � now
quite a bulky one�to Buncombe.
 � Call in on Thursday, if convenient.�
  This was the beginning of our woes.
  Every other day, and sometimes every day,
�two young men might have been seen� tim-
idly approaching the stage-door of that awful
temple of Thespis, with half-hopeful smiles
upon their countenance.  A few moments later,
they � might have been seen� retiring from
the place, with disappointed mien, and stop-
ping at the stables next door to abstract a
straw from the bales on the sidewalk, in order
to have something to chew upon beside the
� cud of sweet and bitter fancies� �especially
the bitter.
  So it went.  July had long closed up her
account with the year to make way for August,
who had also come and departed.  September
was still young when Buncombe, irritated by
having to give us the same answer from four
to seven times a week, requested us, somewhat
brusquely, to give him time to turn round.
He could not promise to read our piece under
a fortnight longer.  If we would call that day
two weeks, he would surely give us an answer.
  For two weeks we � mightn�t have been
seen� in that neighborhood.  On the day ap-
pointed we presented ourselves.  The piece
had not been read.  We left without a word.
  The next day we were there again, and the
manager became exasperated.  He returned
the manuscript, with some hasty remarks
about his not having opened a theatre for the
sole purpose of reading one-act plays.  We
gave him no time�he was bothered to death,
  We thought that two good long months
were ample time for the perusal of a forty-five min-
ute farce, but we said nothing : grief, astonish-
ment, and disappointment overwhelmed us.
  We went sadly and silently home.
 � We were too confoundedly keen,�said Hay-
cill. � We ought to have made him set another
 � Yes.  It wouldn�t have been a bad idea to
have insisted on his keeping the thing till he
could read it.�
 � Why didn�t you do it?  I never thought
of that !�
 � Nor I, until this moment.�
 � Let us leave the manuscript there�at the
box-office say�with a note for him.�
 � Good !�
  We concocted, with infinite labor, an in-
tensely polite note, apologizing for our impa-
tience (though we could not help thinking that
the boot was on the other leg) and requesting
Mr. Buncombe to examine and decide up
the merits of our humble efforts at his leisure.
The result he might announce to us by means
of a line addressed to, etc., etc., etc.
  We haven�t received that announcement
yet !
  This so disgusted us with dramatics, that
we shelved all our old manuscripts, rough
draughts, etc.  Haycill took to comic litera-
ture, and I procured a local editorship of a
Sunday paper.
  Only once since then have we dabbled in
writing for the stage.  When the �right
search� was making such a row, and there was
talk of a war between England and America,
we again succumbed to the temptation, and
wrote another pi�ce de circonstance.  The
manager of one of the theatres on Broadway
pronounced it good, and accepted it for imme-
diate production.  A week later, we learned
that his leading actor refused to play in it.
  We took it to another theatre, where it was
again accepted.  But fate was against us.
The house suddenly closed, on account of
a difficulty about the lease ; and I have the
play still in the drawer of the table where I
am now writing.  I will sell it cheap !
  After this last failure, I made a solemn vow
in Haycill�s presence, that I would never write
another drama.  I will make a few qualifica-
tions to that vow, however.  If any manager
will send to me for the manuscript, and prom-
ise to accept it whether or no ; to pay for it
(whether he accepts it or not) on the day he
orders it, and sends the money to me, he can
secure my services.  On these terms I will
write anything, from a twenty-minute broad
farce to a tragedy in twelve acts.  Any offer
less than that will not be attended to.               
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