Spirit of the Times
New York: 30 June 1860


MILWAUKEE, June 21, 1860.

  Dear "Old Spirit."—Some time ago I wrote you about our theatre, and in that epistle, I am afraid, I judged a little too hastily. However, I have nothing to take back so far as it refers to that particular play, or its dramatizer. But in regard to the other actors I am compelled to modify my opinion considerable, and the poor acting in the "Hidden Hand" I can only account for in the poorness of the play itself. The tableaux were so many, and besides the majority of them so forced, that poor acting could only follow as a natural consequence. I do not mean, now, to praise them up to the skies, taking the other extreme, but I can say honestly that they are a pretty good stock company, and with a judicious selection of plays, and a good star now and then, they ought to make out very well in this city.

  Last evening I saw the "Octoroon" for the first time. What to say of the play, having seen it but once, I do not know; besides, I do not know anything myself, by experience, of the scenes, incidents, and class of people it treats of. But, on the other hand, I can see nothing particularly impossible or improbably in it. It looks reasonable enough. I see no particular defamation or misrepresentation of the Southern people in the "Octoroon." At the slave sale, among a dozen gentlemen who are buying negroes, no one was willing to take the Octoroon from the family she had so long resided with. As far as I can see, it represents the best side of southern life, as pictured by the south itself. In this regard, "Uncle Tom's Cabin" is a good deal worse. It gives a good deal worse representation of southern high life than the "Octoroon." One gentleman, indeed, at the slave sale, withdrew his bid, when he ascertained that he was bidding to separate the family. As for the Octoroon, the lady who acted that part, did well, especially in the scene with her nurse, asking for the poison, and also in the dying scene. I have hardly ever seen and one die so well. As for the lady acting Dora Sunnyside, she acted a good deal too stiff and precise, and only towards the end did she seem to get a little more into the spirit of the scene. Of the gentlemen, the Yankee, Mr. Scudder, was acted the most life-like and natural. George Peyton might have been a good deal better, but still it was a great improvement on his acting in the "Hidden Hand." McClosky also would bear considerable improvement, but still it was tolerable. The darkey, Pete, also acquitted himself well, although I can't say as much for the other darkies, and the negro scenes were rather tedious than otherwise. As for the Indian, Wha-no-tee, he was a good deal too lively for an Indian—jumping and dancing around continually. His fight with McClosky was natural enough and fierce enough. There is nothing particularly meritorious in the play, that I can see, either in a literary or dramatic point of view, but the thing hands together well, and the language, with few exceptions, is appropriate. The dramatizer of this play, as I believe it is principally adapted from Mayne Read's "Quadroon," must have had considerable experience on the stage, talent as an actor, and a fair share of original talent as an author. The company are going to give us the "American Cousin," &c., and I hope they will succeed, as I feel they deserve, if they only won't play the "Hidden Hand" again. FELIX.