Saturday, May 14, 2011

Hall Caine

In turn-of-the-century NYC the Sunday supplements weren't just devoted to graphic stories and comics.[1] The visual, literary, and performing arts also showed up, including, it hardly need be said, theater (or "theatre" as, then and now, it seems generally to be spelled in the Anglophiliac world). For this reason it's probably not out of the ordinary for the New York Herald's Sunday magazine for October 15, 1905, to have featured a celebrated British writer who had a play running at the New Amsterdam Theatre. The playwright was a prolific author named Hall Caine and he was, as wikipedia tells us, "exceedingly popular." His novels sold better than any of his peers and were thus among the first stories to be translated into the first wave of motion pictures.[2] Search his name in a newspaper archive and you'll be given hundreds of links to book, play, and film reviews, as well as appreciations and biographic sketches of the man.[3] It helped that his life was eventful and his appearance unusually striking. [4]

Here is the cover page of the Herald's feature on Caine.

{Hall Caine, the New York Herald, October 15, 1905; source: NYPL Digital Gallery}

His distinctive face, dress, and posture were a magnet for caricaturists as this page of the New York Times demonstrates.[5]

It looks to me like the artist who made the drawing on the cover page of the Herald's Magazine Section in 1905, drew upon this caricature from Vanity Fair in 1896.

{Hall Caine, Vanity Fair, July 2, 1896; source: wikipedia}

Do you agree?

Caine was notorious for wearing what Americans called knickerbockers and the British called plus fours and, after being elected a representative to the legislature of the Isle of Man, would find himself rebuked for wearing them on the floor of that chamber.[6]

The play which was the subject of the Herald's profile of Caine was The Prodigal Son, which also appeared as a novel of the same name. It opened at the New Amsterdam Theatre on September 4, 1905, and closed before the end of October. Like quite a few others of Caine's works, the plot involves a love triangle. Magnus loves a woman who herself loves Magnus's brother, the Progidal. The Progidal marries the woman, takes cruel advantage of his generous-hearted brother, and becomes famous and successful in the eyes of the world. The woman eventually realizes her mistake, and, in the end, the Prodigal comes to a miserable death full of regret for his misdeeds. Caine's habit of reusing plot elements lent itself to parody, as in this treatment by a Punch cartoonist.[7]

{Mr. Hall Caine, in "Why Read at All?" Punch, December 8, 1902, part of a series of cartoons. Others include: Arthur Conan Doyle, William Le Queux, and Robert Hichens.}

Here's a review of the production from the New York Tribune.

{Review: "The Prodigal Son, the New Amsterdam, New York Tribune, September 5, 1905}

Other reviewers were a bit more charmed by the spectacle.[8]

Here's an ad for the production.

{Ad for The Prodigal Son, New York Sun, August 29, 1905}

Part of portrait in oils was painted c. 1898 by R E Morrison.

{source: wikipedia}

This is the New Amsterdam Theatre.

{New Amsterdam Theatre, New York, Detroit Publishing Co., 1905; source: Library of Congress}


Some sources:

Works by Hall Caine in the Internet Archive

Thomas Henry Hall Caine, 1853-1931 on Isle-of-Man dot com.

New-York tribune. (New York [N.Y.]) 1866-1924, September 05, 1905

Some Ideas of Hall Caine, New York Times, December 3, 1904.

WHERE HALL CAINE DREAMS OUT HIS ROMANCES; On His Native Island the famous Manxman Lives Like an Uncrowned King in a Literary Atmosphere of His Own Making, by Bram Stoker, New York Times, September 6, 1908.

Bram Stoker in wikipedia

Hall Caine Caught by a Caricaturist; Novelist-Dramatist Tells Something About His Method of Play-Making and Says a Few Things Anent Bernard Shaw, New York Times, October 1, 1895

GENIUS OF HALL CAINE; Physically the Author, Like Daudet, Is the Man of His Books. HIS INHERITANCE FROM THE BARDS The Isle of Man, Which He Has Seen with Sombre and Grandiose Fancy, Described -- Caine Could Be Its King, New York Times, September 15, 1895

HALL CAINE REBUKED.; Protest Against His Wearing Knickerbockers in House of Keys, New York Times, January 19, 1908

HALL CAINE ON WEALTH TO ROCKEFELLER CLASS; Says It Is a Menace to the Individual and the Nation. HIS FAREWELL TO AMERICA King Edward the Most Popular Man Here Next to Roosevelt -- Kaiser Called a Pagan Monarch, New York Times, October 30, 1905

RECENT FICTION, New York Times, November 19, 1904. Extract from this book review: '"The Prodigal Son" is the Strongest and Most Sincere of Hall Caine's Later Novels. Since "The Manxman" Hall Caine has written nothing so moving in its elements of pathos and tragedy, so plainly marked with the power to search the human heart and reveal its secret springs of strength and weakness, its passion and strife, so sincere and satisfying as his much-heralded story "The Prodigal Son."'

New Concerted Attack on the Fame of SHAKESPEARE; TOLSTOY, Bernard Shaw, Hall Caine and Dr. Bleibtreu assail the Genius and Genuineness of the Bard of the Avon

THOMAS HENRY HALL CAINE in the Encyclopedia Britannica, 11th Edition. Extract: "THOMAS HENRY HALL CAINE, novelist and dramatist, was born May 14, 1853, on the Isle of Man, of Manx and Cumberland parentage. He was educated at schools in the Isle of Man and at Liverpool. Brought up as an architect, he never followed this profession, but ... became a journalist and was for six years a leader-writer on the Liverpool Mercury. At the invitation of D. G. Rosetti, the poet-painter he went up to London, living with the latter until Rosetti died in 1882. ... His career as a novelist began when "The Shadow of a Crime" ... and real success came with "The Deemster" in 1887. ... "The Prodigal Son" was produced in London, in 1905, scoring a pronounced success. The same play was done in America the fall of the same year, but failed as an artistic or financial success. Despite his activity as a writer, Hall Caine found time to lecture before the Royal Institution in 1892, and to do some extensive traveling. ... His first visit to the United States was in 1895, though he returned in 1898 and in 1906. As ambassador of the Authors' Society he went to Canada to negotiate terms with the Dominion Government with regard to the Canadian Copyright Association, submitting this to the Canadian Cabinet, and receiving for his services the thanks of the Colonial Office. Hall Caine has had a great deal to do with the breakdown of the three volume novel. He is an enthusiastic horseback rider and mountain climber. He lives on the Isle of Man but spends quite a little time in London where he is a member of the National, White Friars, Maccabeans and Authors Clubs."

The Burr McIntosh monthly, Issues 47-53 (Burr McIntosh Publishing Co., 1907)

Public opinion Volume 33 (Public Opinion Co., 1902)

Punch Volume 122 (Punch Publications Ltd., 1902)

Why Read At All?, a portfolio of work from Punch cartoonist Lewis Baumer from 1909-1910, in a blog post by John Adcock.

"THE PRODIGAL SON" PUT ON.; A Large Audience Sees Hall Caine's New Play at Washington WASHINGTON, Aug. 28. -- Hall Caine's new play, "The Prodigal Son," was produced for the first time on any stage tonight at the New National.



[1] I've done two earlier posts on the Sunday papers, one on a graphic feature in verse, called Fluffy Ruffles, and the other on comics, particularly the most visually interesting ones (New York Sunday comics in the 90s & aughts). The two are part of a larger series on New York newspapers in general and the New York Herald in particular. The series began with a post exploring photographs of New York's Herald Square in the late 19th and early centuries.

[2] And, versatile as well as prolific, he made some of his own screenplays.

[3] A search for "Hall Caine" in archives of the New York Times yields 850 hits dating from February 6, 1882, to December 2, 1980, with most (507) clustering in the two decades from 1890 to 1910. Here's a Google Ngram showing the relative popularity of Caine, James Barrie, and Kenneth Grahame.

And this one, restricted to the pair of decades from 1890 to 1910, for Caine, Barrie, and Grahame, plus Bram Stoker, Joseph Conrad, and Lewis Carroll.

[4] The wikipedia capsule biography is good. Born in 1853, he had roots in Cheshire and the Isle of Man. He earned his living as both draftsman and author, mainly working for the local press in Liverpool. Intellectually, he became a follower first of John Ruskin, then Dante Gabriel Rosetti. Politically, his views were socialist but not revolutionary. Both his intellectual and political inclinations led him also to environmentalism and activist in a movement led by William Morris to save scenic spots and ancient structures. In the summer of 1902, when his novels and memoirs had brought him recognition and a degree of fame, Caine did not let his radical views prevent him from associating with members of the British Establishment and apparently had no qualms about accepting an invitation to join King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra during a visit to Isle of Man. As wikipedia says, "the Queen had enjoyed Caine's Manx novels and Caine was invited to join the royal couple on their yacht and to accompany them on their tour of the island the following day."

[5] Here are some caricatures of the man.

{Drawing from The New Student's Reference Work (1914)}

{Cartoon of Hall Caine by Harry Furniss; source: wikipedia}

[6] HALL CAINE REBUKED.; Protest Against His Wearing Knickerbockers in House of Keys

[7] This appeared in Punch in 1909:

It was part of "The Chantey of the Nations" Punch, June 25, 1902:

[8] See for example "Prodigal Son Review," Newtown Register, September 14, 1905.

No comments: