Years before writing his most famous novel, Bram Stoker is working as the business manager of the famed Lyceum Theater Company of London.  Wishing to make a hefty donation to the company: a mysterious, dapper Slavic gentleman visits the theater with plans to mix business AND pleasure.


Letter (By Hand), Actress Lillian Adams to Her Mother
Dublin, 12 August

D

earest Mother,
I pray this finds you well and that your terrible gout is not too discomforting this week. I shall be home soon, and I am well tired of this summer run. Coming directly off the season as it did, my fatigue is beyond measure. I am sure most people would think it quite glamorous, being an actress with London’s famous Lyceum Company, la-tee-da, but it has been mostly tedious for me here. Mrs. McBride at the rooming house, though, has been so very kind to me, as I have said before. She takes the time to ask what food would be to my liking. I know how you tease at my fussiness, but I cannot help it.

The house at the Theatre Royal here in Dublin has continued full, and the people are very appreciative. Hamlet is so damn long. Sorry, but ‘tis a burden I cannot describe waiting for my few scenes. Mr. Henry-Bloody-Irving drones on and on with his speeches and I would rather sit backstage watching paint dry. I know you and all of London adore him; he is our illustrious leader and I should be grateful for the exposure. Miss Ellen Terry generally keeps a good spirit with us girls, but the same cannot be said for Mr. Irving. Oh, my dear, he frightens me so. You recall that time he railed at me when I was behind in my entrance. Remember, Lord how I cried. Thank God I still got me looks, as they say at home. He mostly leaves me alone.

I feel so bad for poor Mr. Stoker, you remember him, he runs the front of house and is the company’s Business Manager. He was very attentive to us when you came with Father those times. He has been a good friend, and treated us girls to the pub more than once. We girls call him Uncle Bram. Mr. Irving speaks so cruelly to him; I do not know how he stands it. Just yesterday, at the Royal, there was to be a photograph of our largest scene. Mr. Irving yelled for all in attendance to don some costume piece and join us, you know, to fill out the look of the numbers of our company. Well Mr. Stoker pitched in like all that were backstage. Aw, Mother, he did look so amusing. He is such a bear of a man as you know, and well, he put on this big black hat with feathers and God knows what all. It did look a fright with his red hair and beard. Now, where does he choose to stand, but amongst all the child extras. I cannot help but laugh now but it was quite the embarrassment. Mr. Irving went wild, laughing at him in a very coldhearted way in front of everyone.

‘Abraham! In the painted perspective you look fifty feet high, you oaf,’ was his remark. I could tell Mr. Stoker was quite hurt. He looks up to Mr. Irving with such adoration, poor man. Mr. Irving can be a charming and persuasive man, but quite insensitive when it suits him. Well, anyway, we could all use some time away from each other.

My darling, I shall close for now.

Some of the girls at least have had Irish suitors but that has not been my lot. Write back dear heart, and save me from dying of boredom.
Your Lil

Journal of H.J. Loveday, Stage Manager
13 August

The performance went well tonight. Irving was a bit wonky in spots, but he always manages to right himself. Young Mr. Martin-Harvey was excellent, as well as some of the girls. Miss Terry was late as usual, arriving just before the show. She seemed quite mad tonight as Ophelia though, the best I have seen her. She does that quick jerky motion she says she learned by watching a mental patient, and her eyes are all funny. Always gives me a shiver. I overheard the young ones talking about myself, Irving and Stoker. They call us the Unholy Trinity; I get a laugh out of that. As long as they know who is in charge.

There was a strange incident just prior to curtain tonight. I was out the stage door having my ritual fag before the hubbub. Suddenly this gent comes at me out of nowhere, like out of the shadows. He just about made me dirty myself. He was very insistent that I give Stoker a message. It had to be right away, before the show. Talk about funny eyes, this one took the cake. You just felt you had to do as he says.

I went to find Stoker right off. He was doing his traditional call out to the head usher in each section. Mr. High and Mighty, he always makes a show of it. Says he wants the audience to learn the sound of his voice, in the case of a fire or something. Mr. Fastidious. I gave him a fright as well when I approached him.

‘My God, whatever is wrong Lovey,’ says he. He has never seen me in the house that close to curtain. Figures only bad news would take me from my post.

I told him how this foreign gent wanted me to pass on a message, and how it was urgent. Stoker just about took my head off.

‘What on earth,’ says he. ‘Look Lovey, you should be backstage. ‘Tis nearly places. We can talk about this later man!’

Arrogant bastard. For some reason, though, I felt compelled to carry out my mission.

‘Look, Stoker, please, do not make me disappoint him,’ says I. I had no idea what I was saying.

‘Lovey, you’re… shaking,’ says he. ‘Are you actually frightened of this fellow?’

‘Look, Stoker, I have little time,’ says I. ‘I just have to say he wishes to meet with you, during the second act. In the boardroom, on the third floor. He apparently wants to be a patron. Could be good for us, Stoker. He’s quite the striking figure,’ says I. ‘Sort of aristo, with a heavy accent. Eastern European, I think. Anyway, I have said what I had to,’ says I, ‘and glad I am to be able to tell him that, if he shows up again.’

‘Lovey,’ Stoker now says, all serious, ‘did this gentleman… threaten you in some way?’

‘No, no,’ says I, ‘Actually he was quite polite, very elegant. But he gave me a shiver is all. He gave me a shiver.’

‘All right, Lovey, you have done your bit,’ says he. ‘Thanks for the message. I shall meet your mystery man at the start of the second act. Tell Molly to see that we are not disturbed up there. Now, please, for heaven’s sake, get back to your job. And Lovey…’

‘Yeah, Stoker,’ says I.

‘Have a good show. And for goodness’ sake, send a boy next time; we’re nearly five minutes past curtain.’

‘Right, Stoker,’ says I.

Arrogant bastard.

(excerpted from ALBEDO magazine Issue #37)

© Richard Alan Scott

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