Originally published in 1978. Henry Irving achieved an astounding success in Britain and America as an actor; yet he lacked good looks, had spindly legs, and did not have a good voice. He said so himself. Today Irving is regarded as the archetype of the old-time actor, but in his own time he was regarded as a great theatrical innovator. Even Bernard Shaw, who attacked him pitilessly, even unto death, called him ‘modern’ when he first saw him act.

Irving, the man, with his tenacious, obsessive talent, his human limitations and weaknesses, and his ephemeral glory is brought most sympathetically to life in this biography. It is written from contemporary sources, and from criticisms, lampoons, caricatures and gossip columns.

If Irving reflected certain aspects of his age, this book underlines the Victorian ethic to which he appealed and the backcloths against which it was set – the extraordinary lavishness of the Lyceum productions and the incredible extravagance of social entertaining. Not the least absorbing aspect of this biography is the fascinating account of the long partnership between Irving and Ellen Terry, still in many respects an enigmatic one, but here portrayed with lively insight into character combined with understanding and deep knowledge of the social and theatrical context of the Victorian age.

chapter Chapter 1|13 pages

A Child of the Chapel

chapter Chapter 2|16 pages

Enter Henry Irving

chapter Chapter 3|11 pages

The Black Cloak of Hamlet

chapter Chapter 4|15 pages

Some Heroines and a Villain Unknown

chapter Chapter 5|18 pages

Wedding Bells and Sleigh Bells

chapter Chapter 6|12 pages

Easy Tears and Hard Settlements

chapter Chapter 7|16 pages

The Hundred Pound Hamlet

chapter Chapter 8|17 pages

A Theatre ‘Where I Should be Sole Master'

chapter Chapter 9|14 pages

The Spirits of the Age

chapter Chapter 10|12 pages

The Public Image and the Private Man

chapter Chapter 11|15 pages

A Feast of Spectacle

chapter Chapter 12|16 pages

America! America!

chapter Chapter 13|13 pages

Blizzards and Shakespeare

chapter Chapter 14|15 pages

Home to Cheers and Hisses

chapter Chapter 15|14 pages

Mephisto (of the Grange)

chapter Chapter 16|13 pages

The Time and the Hour

chapter Chapter 17|14 pages

The Serpent in the Forest

chapter Chapter 18|14 pages

G.B.S. Advancing

chapter Chapter 19|17 pages

Enter Mrs Aria

chapter Chapter 20|10 pages