The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21). rn VOLUME XVII. Later National Literature, Part II.

XVIII. The Drama, 1860–1918

§ 5. Lester Wallack

Though as a family of managers the tradition of the Wallacks was distinctly English, Lester Wallack (1819–1888) romantically masked his old English comedy manner beneath local colour in Central Park (14 February, 1861); but his dash was happiest in such pieces, of his own concoction, as The Romance of a Poor Young Man (adapted by him 24 January, 1860) and Rosedale (produced 30 September, 1863). To the time of his last appearance (29 May, 1886), he was true to his English taste. To see Lester Wallack at his best, one had to see him as Shakespeare’s Benedick or Mercutio; as Dumas’s D’Artagnan, or in the social suavity of the Robertson and contemporary French drama.

  • The British tradition seemed so natural to Lester Wallack [writes Brander Matthews], so inevitable, that when Bronson Howard, in his ’prentice days, took him a piece called Drum-Taps,—which was to supply more than one comedy-scene to the later Shenandoah,—the New York manager did not dare to risk a play on so American a theme as the Civil War. He returned it to the young author, saying, “Couldn’t you make it the Crimea?”