17 November 2008

Miss Lydia Thompson's Farewell

From page 6 of The Pall Mall Gazette, for May 3, 1899, of a “farewell address” in verse that Gilbert wrote for the actress Lydia Thompson. Sent to Savoynet by Arthur, the Reference Librarian. Good folks to know, librarians...


The following address, written by Mr. W.S. Gilbert, was spoken by Miss Lydia Thompson at the conclusion of the proceedings yesterday: --

The other day, when sitting all alone,
Thinking of pleasant times long past and gone,
“Why, bless my precious heart and soul,” said I,
“I’ve left the stage, and haven’t said “Good bye!””
That sounds ungrateful—-but, to be quite plain,
I hoped I might be coming back again,
And would not speak the word one can’t recall,
Till “Good-bye” meant “Good-bye” for good and all.

“Good-bye”—-an easy word for you to say—-
“Sorry you’re going, but you’ve had your day.
Next please!”—-And the obedient profession
Supplies new-comers in prolonged succession—
A thousand fair ones for your smiles contesting
(A hundred acting and nine hundred “resting”);
But when I say “Good-bye” in faltering tone
To you--the truest friends I’ve ever known--
The friends whose warmth expressed in gladdening chime
Supplied the sunshine of my summer-time--
The case is somewhat different. You see,
I’m losing you—-you’re only losing me!

But this won’t do at all—-I’m off the scent,
My line’s light comedy, not sentiment.
My future tense seems cheeriness to lack,
And so, I won’t look forward—-I’ll look back.

What changes have I seem since that dim age,
When little Goldenhair tripped on the stage!
The Drama, struggling then in lodgings shady,
Has made her fortune and is quite the lady,
With endless hosts of highly cultured friends.
Think how she dresses now, and what she spends
On vast dramatic shrines—-in sumptuous salaries—-
In real Venetian-leathered pits and galleries—-
In plays that run a year to houses packed,
And cost, to stage, a thousand pounds an act!

Stage-management—-that has advanced a bit
Since poor Tom Robertson invented it—-
Tom Robertson, whose histrionic chickens
We sneer at now—-but then we sneer at Dickens!

Knighthoods for actors of pronounced ability
Earls, countesses, engaged to play “utility”;
Ibsen—-a zest for jaded appetite;
No fees-—half-guinea stalls—-electric light
Matinées twice a week, and, sad to say,
Matinée hats—-I see one here to-day;
Stock-companies completely out of date,
Burlesque quite dead—-(it never risked that fate
When Talfourd, Planché, Brough, and Byron made it,
And Rogers, Clarke, and Marie Wilton played it—-
Then, strangest chance, of playhouses vast crops!
Playhouses plentiful as grocers’ shops!

Ten in twelve months! Well, I don’t want to prate,
But if new theatres crop up at that rate,
Where will you find your pieces, if you please,
And where your actors and your actresses!
Ten months will build a playhouse, per contractor—-
It takes at least ten years to build an actor,
And, as our best authorities insist,
Ten times ten years to build a dramatist!

Well, if too long I’ve babbled of my youth,
I’m rather loath to go, and that’s the truth.
Still we must part-—it’s idle to delay it:
I’ve come to say “Good-bye!”—-so let me say it.
The link that binds me to you must be broken—-
Come now, come then, the last word must be spoken!
In no light mood the farewell phrases fall—-
God bless you! God bless me! God bless us all!

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