Social Victorians/1887-07-16 Kendal Dinner

Dinner Honoring the KendalsEdit


  • 1887 July 16, Tuesday
  • Hôtel Métropole
  • Presiding: Joseph Chamberlain ("Mr. J. Chamberlain")

Who Was PresentEdit

  1. Mr. Kendal
  2. Mrs. Kendal
  3. Mary Crowninshield Endicott Chamberlain ("Mrs. Chamberlain")
  4. Lieut. General H. Brackenbury
  5. Sir Arthur and Lady Blomfield
  6. Sir Edgar Boehm
  7. Mr. and Mrs. Oscar Beringer
  8. Lieut. Colonel Arthur Collins
  9. Lady Colvile
  10. Mr. Burdett Coutts, M.P.
  11. Sir William and Lady Dalby
  12. Mr. Arthur Dacre
  13. Sir Henry Edwards
  14. Sir Joseph Fayrer
  15. Major General Sir Frederick Goldsmid
  16. Lieut. Colonel Albert Goldsmid
  17. Mr. and Mrs. John Hare
  18. Mr. and Mrs. Henry Joachim
  19. Lady Lindsay
  20. Mr. F. Lockwood, M.P.
  21. Mr. H. W. Lawson, M.P.
  22. the Earl of Londesborough
  23. Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Levy
  24. Hon. Charles and Mrs. Lawrence
  25. Lady Monckton
  26. Sir Morell and Lady Mackenzie
  27. Mr. F. W. Maclean, M.P.
  28. Sir Charles Russell, M.P., and Lady Russell
  29. Sir A. K. Rollit, M.P.
  30. Lord Rowton
  31. Sir Bruce and Lady Seton
  32. Mr. J. L. Toole
  33. the Dowager Marchioness of Waterford


From the London StandardEdit

Mr. and Mrs. Kendal were, last night entertained to dinner prior to their departure for America, the gathering taking place at the Hôtel Métropole. The company, numbering upwards of two hundred, was presided over by Mr. J. Chamberlain. Among those present were: Mrs. Chamberlain, Lieut. General H. Brackenbury, Sir Arthur and Lady Blomfield, Sir Edgar Boehm, Mr. and Mrs. Oscar Beringer, Lieut. Colonel Arthur Collins, Lady Colvile, Mr. Burdett Coutts, M.P., Sir William and Lady Dalby, Mr. Arthur Dacre, Sir Henry Edwards, Sir Joseph Fayrer, Major General Sir Frederick Goldsmid, Lieut. Colonel Albert Goldsmid, Mr. and Mrs. John Hare, Mr. and Mrs. Henry Joachim, Lady Lindsay, Mr. F. Lockwood, M.P., Mr. H. W. Lawson, M.P., the Earl of Londesborough, Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Levy, Hon. Charles and Mrs. Lawrence, Lady Monckton, Sir Morell and Lady Mackenzie, Mr. F. W. Maclean, M.P.. Sir Charles Russell, M.P., and Lady Russell, Sir A. K. Rollit, M.P., Lord Rowton, Sir Bruce and Lady Seton, Mr. J. L. Toole, and the Dowager Marchioness of Waterford.

The usual loyal toasts having been duly honoured, The Chairman said — I have now the pleasure of proposing the health of our guests, Mr. and Mrs. Kendal (cheers), whom we shall accompany with our best wishes on the occasion of their first visit to our cousins across the water. I am very grateful to the Committee for having made me your mouthpiece on this occasion, although I am prepared for the expression of some surprise that such a distinction should have been conferred on a mere politician (laughter), whose professional avocations have so little in common, at first sight, with the art to which our guests have devoted their lives (laughter). The drama which has been progressing for so many centuries on the boards of St. Stephen's, which has had the longest run of any play, and which has excited a certain amount of popular interest and appreciation, justifies my presence here to-night (laughter). I claim for the House of Commons that we also are the abstract and brief chronicles of the times (laughter) — not so brief as we might be (laughter), but that is a detail (laughter); and, at least among our actors, you will find the most versatile actors of the day (cheers). Each man in his time plays many parts; all styles aud all branches of the profession are represented. We have those who "tear passion to tatters — to very rags; and we have others who are capable of nothing but inexplicable dumb show and noise (laughter). We have our leading gentlemen, our heavy fathers, our light comedians; and there are clowns who forget the injunction of Hamlet, aud who set out to make a certain quality of spectators laugh, although some necessary questions of the play have at this time to be considered. You will see that there is a competition between St. Stephen's and the legitimate drama (laughter), and that may, perhaps, account for the fact, which I deplore, that when occasionally the Legislature concerns itself with the dramatic profession, it does so in a certain spirit of criticism and suspicion which is altogether unworthy of the subject (hear, hear). We have had an illustration of this within the last few days (cheers). You are aware that the House of Commons has decided by a great majority against the employment of young children on the stage. The "infant phenomenon" is doomed (laughter), and if Mr. Vincent Crummles is still alive, he must now be mourning the degeneracy of the time (renewed cheers). I confess I have had some qualms of conscience as to the part which I myself took in that decision (laughter). I think, if Mrs. Kendal were willing, she could give us some interesting information that would throw great light on the subject, from her personal experience, for I have read that at the early age of five she was already starred in the bills of a certain theatre (hear, hear). While I suppose her friends would agree that, at all events in her case, no fatal results have followed (cheers), it is possible that, to minds less evenly balanced, the excessive strain of public performance at an early age might be injurious. Therefore I have hesitated, and I was very much inclined to give a vote on each side of the question (laughter) in the course of the two or three days in which it was before the House of Commons. Although I hesitated as to my vote, I never hesitated at all in condemning aud repudiating the statements and arguments by which that decision was sought to be sustained by some of our modern Puritans (hear, hear), who appear to think that the stage is an ante-room to a warmer place (laughter), and that it has none but demoralising aspects. There are still persons well qualified to play the part of Mawworm who appear to consider that it is their especial mission to destroy any respect that may attach to an honourable profession, and who would, if they could, prohibit altogether an institution from which we all derive the highest intellectual pleasure and amusement (cheers). With those critics I have no sympathy. I rather sympathise with those who, like the ancient Greeks aud Romans, believed that the stage was a great educational influence, and an instrument of national civilisation (hear, hear). I have thought sometimes that, with all our advantages, the tendency of the age is too great a monotony, and that, therefore, we ought to welcome anything that relieves our somewhat ordinary and colourless existence (hear, hear). The imagination of men has to be cultivated as well as their existence provided for, and the imagination of men grows on the creations of genius, which are, in many cases, developed for us, and interpreted by the skill and the talent of the actor (cheers). It is the actor who clothes the creations of genius, who gives them life, and who impresses upon the hearts and minds of men the thoughts and words of the greatest writers of all times (cheers). I know it has been said by a somewhat jaundiced critic that an actor is a man who represents indifferently a portion of a tale invented by another; but you will agree with me that that is a very imperfect and insufficient definition, and that every true actor imparts something of himself to the creations that he illustrates, that he supplements aud completes his author, and I think it is probable that some of the neatest literary possessions we enjoy, possessions of all time, the heritages of the ages, would never have seen the light but for the certainty that they would find competent and skilled interpretation in the genius of the actor (cheers). I can understand how, in these circumstances, in other times and other countries, the State has not thought it beneath its duty to foster and nurture the stage, and encourage it by material aid and support. Here, according to our wont, we leave everything to individual effort. We have left it to the actors themselves to maintain the best traditions of the English stage, and you will agree with me that foremost among living actors our guests have done what within them lay to upheld a lofty and a worthy ideal (cheers). The school of English comedy —-- the school which holds the mirror up to Nature, and which has depicted for us with so much grace and simplicity the passing incidents of contemporary life and manners —-- has had no more delicate and no more intelligent exponents (cheers). If there are any persons still who think that staginess —-- that a manner of gait and presentation are essential consequences of taking to the boards —-- let Mr. and Mrs. Kendal undeceive them (cheers). They have been, I think, I may say, nurtured on the stage -- all their lives having been inseparably connected with it. We may almost say that they have gained their education -- that they learned their letters in the "flies," and I believe it is historical that they pursued their courtship at the wings (cheers). Since then they have been constantly before the footlights, yet they remain what we know them -- the frank and natural, the courteous and kindly English lady and gentleman (cheers). The esteem in which they are held on this side of the water may be judged by this gathering -- one of the most representative that I have ever had the honour of attending. I propose to you, my Lords, ladies, and gentlemen, "The Health of Mr. and Mrs. Kendal" (prolonged cheers).

Mr. Kendal, who was cheered, said,— -- I shall not pretend to say that, in the enterprise which we are about to undertake, we are entirely free from anxiety. It is no small matter for us to cross the broad Atlantic with a theatrical company and their equipment, and, in a fresh and untried country, appeal to the verdict of a new audience. But our venture is cheered by this signal manifestation of your cordiality and good wishes, which are even already endorsed by most sympathetic assurances of welcome that have arrived from over the way. It is our ambition, not only to succeed in pleasing the American public, but in upholding and extending the repute of the British dramatic profession. If anything could enhance the gratification and pride of this moment, it would be, sir, your presence in the chair on this, to us, one of the most interesting social events of our lives, and the presence, also, of the accomplished lady who bears your name. Her presence here this evening we accept as a happy augury of our reception in the great country which is tbe land of her birth. To the kind, and generous, and all too flattering words you have used in reference to us, I am, as I have said, wholly unable to make an adequate reply; but they have sunk deeply into our hearts, and will never be forgotten. We trust that on our return from America we shall find that we have done nothing to forfeit your esteem, or to lessen your affectionate goodwill (cheers).

The Chairman next presented Mrs. Kendal with a magnificent diamond star. The presentation was made amid cheers.

Mrs. Kendal replied as follows: -- In what words can I convey to you the expression of my gratitude? I thank you all again aud again, not only for your beautiful gift, but also for the flattering words that have accompanied it. The intrinsic value of your present, great as it is, is of less account in my eyes than the kindly feelings that have prompted its offering, and not the least gratifying feature in connection with it is the knowledge that much time and thought have been devoted to it by my friends and confrères, who have little of either to spare. I may have my own opinion, as others may have theirs, as to whether I merit all that has been said of me in this room to-night; but one thing I may say, that, however much our past efforts may fall short of the praise accorded them, all my future shall be devoted to the endeavour to deserve them. My husband and the members of our company, and my poor self, are about to appear before new and critical audiences. In the face of such an ordeal to come it is a great aud valuable encouragement to know that we are bearing with us the good wishes of those who, though we are privileged to call them friends, are not less impartial judges. It is to me a happy omen that among those who are here to wish us God speed is Mrs. Chamberlain, who comes from one of the most cultivated and intellectual cities in the United States. When I recall the welcome extended on the other side to my brothers and sisters in art, and the appreciation shown on this side of the visits of our American colleagues, I am emboldened to feel very sanguine as to our venture. Though in America the canons of artistic taste are exalted and exacting, there is always a kindliness which will condone our shortcomings. I know not whether Mr. Chamberlain, who has done so much to draw the two countries together, will consent to view the exchange of artistic visits as international incidents. The two countries are united, not only by blood and kinship, but by artistic sympathy and interests, in those domestic bonds of which we have a happy instance here to-night. With such surroundings, such cordial encouragements, such dear old friends in public and private life, a woman may well be forgiven for departing from the silent habit of her sex. Let me again thank you, and assure you of my gratitude for this lovely gift, which I shall treasure and wear with pleasure and with pride (cheers).

Sir C. Russell gave "The Drama," Mr. J. L. Toole responding.

Other complimentary toasts followed.


Questions and NotesEdit