Opera House, Newburgh, NY, The
November 20, 1884
"From the daughter of Francis N. Bain, 1st proprietor, we have the following authentication: Mrs. John Nolle (Francis Bain Nolle) reminds us that the early Opera House on 2nd Street, just east of the hotel and the Academy of Music, on Broadway, west of Grand Street, supported interesting plays and singers. In fact, many of the plays that were to run on Broadway in New York City had try-outs in Newburgh. Also, Newburgh on the circuit of the early producers tours."
Newburgh Daily Journal November 21, 1884 p.2, col 5
The Twain-Cable Readings.
A Newburgh audience has had the pleasure of spending an evening with “Mark Twain” and George W. Cable. And enjoyed it to the utmost. The Opera House, where the entertainment was given, was only half filled. This may be accounted for by several reasons: Weather—several other largely attended first class entertainments on preceding evenings this week—the price of reserved seats—another reading in town the same evening—the night on which several church organizations hold weekly service, etc. But the gathering was select and appreciative.
Gifted as Samuel L. Clemens is as a humorist and amusing as his writings are, it is questionable whether the author is not more delightful still when as a reader he gives additional life and color to his characters on the stage. As a reader Mr. Clemens is utterly outside and beyond the reach of all conventional rule. But coming from his own lips his lines gather and convey innumerable new and charming significancies. He is a wonderful story-teller, and, with one or two exceptions,--when he read about “King Sollermunn” from the advance sheets of “Huckleberry Finn,” and the “Tragic Tale of a Fishwife”--it seemed as if he had just dropped in to tell a story. When telling about “the duel,” and the “ghost story,” and his “trying situation” at Luzerne and how the stranger was cured of stammering, it was difficult to realize that he was reciting from a book. He found the listeners bubbling over with expectation and welcome, and more and more demonstrative as he from time to time presented pictures extremely ludicrous. Mr. Clemens may have over-estimated his reputation when he assumed that the audience would willingly tolerate from his lips occasionally what some of his hearers considered coarse or unrefined sentences that could have been modified or dispensed with—that added nothing to the pleasure of the entertainment.
It is now about eight years since Mr. Cable's first story appeared in “Scribner's Monthly” and at once proclaimed to those who were on the watch for such things that a new literary field was being opened up. Then followed “Les Belles Demoiselles,” “Cafe des Exiles,” “Posson Jones,” etc., till this unique and spontaneous literary growth seemed to culminate in that prose epic of Creole pride and decline, “The Grandissimes.” As might be surmissed from his writings Mr. Cable is a Southerner. Family misfortunes compelled him to leave school at fourteen; at nineteen he entered the Southern army and studied his Bible and Latin grammar in his leisure moments. Afterwards he became a civil engineer and studied the Southern swamps and bayous which he describes so wonderfully. Next he entered a cotton mercantile house, where he studied Creole manners and dialect from contact, and in the intervals of his leisure began to write the stories that have since revealed him to the world. He is said to be of Virginia cavalier stock on his father's, and Puritan New England on his mother's side. But surely there must be a strong infusion of the French element on some side for the man's mental make-up and sympathetic insight is as Gallic as is his physical appearance.
Mr. Cable's reading consisted of a number of the most striking scenes from “Dr. Sevier,” interspersed with snatches of Creole songs. In the scenes in which the interviews between the widow Kate Riley and Narcissae and the courtship and capture of the impressible Kate by the Italian Ristofallo are re-enacted, the unctious brogue of the widow and the “cheek” of Ristofalo were set forth by the author in capital style. The gem of Mr. Cable's reading was “Mary's Night Ride.” He re-enacted this exquisite chapter with great dramatic power and fire, and held his audience almost breathless. He pictured out the story so eloquently and vividly that it seemed as though one could almost see it for himself. It was a literary gem beautifully recited.
It was a treat to hear these two great writers interpret their own imaginations. It will be a long time—or until they come again—before Newburgh will hear another entertainment of the kind equally meritorious.
(Courtesy of Heather H. Georghiou
Local History Librarian
Newburgh Free Library )