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John Drinkwater was an early 20th century English poet and playwright. After writing the drama Abraham Lincoln he wrote similar plays, Mary Stuart and Oliver Cromwell. Abraham Lincoln is a somewhat fictionalized play by John Drinkwater about the 16th President of the United States. Drinkwater's first great success, it opened in England in 1918 and on Broadway in 1919. In Drinkwater's play Lincoln is depicted in 7 significant roles: husband; father; war leader; humanitarian; statesman; hero; and murder victim. Lincoln was the 16th President of the United States. His strength of character and brilliant mind helped keep the United States from falling apart. His tragic assassination robbed the US of a great man. A rare depiction of events in the life of a U.S. President by a British playwright, the play was a great success in its day, and was produced on radio by Orson Welles on August 15, 1938, on his program, The Mercury Theatre on the Air. In 1924, a two-reel sound film version of the play, also starring McGlynn, was filmed by Lee De Forest in his Phonofilm sound-on-film process. On May 26, 1952, the play was presented on television on the anthology series Studio One. The television version was notable for featuring actor James Dean in a small, but very noticeable role. The production has survived on kinescope, available at the Internet Archive. Drinkwater's play is rarely revived today. The play covers events in Lincoln's Presidency from his election in 1860 to his assassination, but leaves out most of the events in his private life.
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Liczba stron: 158
A play by JOHN DRINKWATER
The two speaking together: Kinsmen, you shall behold Our stage, in mimic action, mould A man’s character. This is the wonder, always, everywhere— Not that vast mutability which is event, The pits and pinnacles of change, But man’s desire and valiance that range All circumstance, and come to port unspent. Agents are these events, these ecstasies, And tribulations, to prove the purities Or poor oblivions that are our being. When Beauty and peace possess us, they are none But as they touch the beauty and peace of men, Nor, when our days are done, And the last utterance of doom must fall, Is the doom anything Memorable for its apparelling; The bearing of man facing it is all. So, kinsmen, we present This for no loud event That is but fugitive, But that you may behold Our mimic action mould The spirit of man immortally to live. First Chronicler: Once when a peril touched the days Of freedom in our English ways, And none renowned in government Was equal found, Came to the steadfast heart of one, Who watched in lonely Huntingdon, A summons, and he went, And tyranny was bound, And Cromwell was the lord of his event. Second Chronicler: And in that land where voyaging The pilgrim Mayflower came to rest, Among the chosen, counselling, Once, when bewilderment possessed A people, none there was might draw To fold the wandering thoughts of men, And make as one the names again Of liberty and law. And then, from fifty fameless years In quiet Illinois was sent A word that still the Atlantic hears, And Lincoln was the lord of his event. The two speaking together: So the uncounted spirit wakes To the birth Of uncounted circumstance. And time in a generation makes Portents majestic a little story of earth To be remembered by chance At a fireside. But the ardours that they bear, The proud and invincible motions of character— These—these abide.
The parlour of Abraham Lincoln’s House at Springfield, Illinois, early in 1860. MR. STONE, a farmer, and MR. CUFFNEY, a store-keeper, both men of between fifty and sixty, are sitting before an early spring fire. It is dusk, but the curtains are not drawn. The men are smoking silently.
Mr. Stone (after a pause): Abraham. It’s a good name for a man to bear, anyway.
Mr. Cuffney: Yes. That’s right.
Mr. Stone (after another pause): Abraham Lincoln. I’ve known him forty years. Never crooked once. Well.
He taps his pipe reflectively on the grate. There is another pause. SUSAN, a servant-maid, comes in, and busies herself lighting candles and drawing the curtains to.
Susan: Mrs. Lincoln has just come in. She says she’ll be here directly.
Mr. Cuffney: Thank you.
Mr. Stone: Mr. Lincoln isn’t home yet, I dare say?
Susan: No, Mr. Stone. He won’t be long, with all the gentlemen coming.
Mr. Stone: How would you like your master to be President of the United States, Susan?
Susan: I’m sure he’d do it very nicely, sir.
Mr. Cuffney: He would have to leave Springfield, Susan, and go to live in Washington.
Susan: I dare say we should take to Washington very well, sir.
Mr. Cuffney: Ah! I’m glad to hear that.
Susan: Mrs. Lincoln’s rather particular about the tobacco smoke.
Mr. Stone: To be sure, yes, thank you, Susan.
Susan: The master doesn’t smoke, you know. And Mrs. Lincoln’s specially particular about this room.
Mr. Cuffney: Quite so. That’s very considerate of you, Susan.
They knock out their pipes.
Susan: Though some people might not hold with a gentleman not doing as he’d a mind in his own house, as you might say.
She goes out.
Mr. Cuffney (after a further pause, stroking his pipe): I suppose there’s no doubt about the message they’ll bring?
Mr. Stone: No, that’s settled right enough. It’ll be an invitation. That’s as sure as John Brown’s dead.
Mr. Cuffney: I could never make Abraham out rightly about old John. One couldn’t stomach slaving more than the other, yet Abraham didn’t hold with the old chap standing up against it with the sword. Bad philosophy, or something, he called it. Talked about fanatics who do nothing but get themselves at a rope’s end.
Mr. Stone: Abraham’s all for the Constitution. He wants the Constitution to be an honest master. There’s nothing he wants like that, and he’ll stand for that, firm as a Samson of the spirit, if he goes to Washington. He’d give his life to persuade the state against slaving, but until it is persuaded and makes its laws against it, he’ll have nothing to do with violence in the name of laws that aren’t made. That’s why old John’s raiding affair stuck in his gullet.
Mr. Cuffney: He was a brave man, going like that, with a few zealous like himself, and a handful of niggers, to free thousands.
Mr. Stone: He was. And those were brave words when they took him out to hang him. “I think, my friends, you are guilty of a great wrong against God and humanity. You may dispose of me very easily. I am nearly disposed of now. But this question is still to be settled—this negro question, I mean. The end of that is not yet.” I was there that day. Stonewall Jackson was there. He turned away. There was a colonel there giving orders. When it was over, “So perish all foes of the human race,” he called out. But only those that were afraid of losing their slaves believed it.
Mr. Cuffney (after a pause): It was a bad thing to hang a man like that. … There’s a song that they’ve made about him.
He sings quietly.
John Brown’s body lies a mould’ring in the grave, But his soul goes marching on…
Mr. Stone: I know.
The two together (singing quietly):
The stars of heaven are looking kindly down On the grave of old John Brown….
After a moment MRS. LINCOLN comes in. The men rise.
Mrs. Lincoln: Good-evening, Mr. Stone. Good-evening, Mr. Cuffney.
Mr. Stone and Mr. Cuffney: Good-evening, ma’am.
Mrs. Lincoln: Sit down, if you please.
They all sit.
Mr. Stone: This is a great evening for you, ma’am.
Mrs. Lincoln: It is.
Mr. Cuffney: What time do you expect the deputation, ma’am?
Mrs. Lincoln: They should be here at seven o’clock. (With an inquisitive nose.) Surely, Abraham hasn’t been smoking.
Mr. Stone (rising): Shall I open the window, ma’am? It gets close of an evening.
Mrs. Lincoln: Naturally, in March. You may leave the window, Samuel Stone. We do not smoke in the parlour.
Mr. Stone (resuming his seat): By no means, ma’am.
Mrs. Lincoln: I shall be obliged to you.
Mr. Cuffney: Has Abraham decided what he will say to the invitation?
Mrs. Lincoln: He will accept it.
Mr. Stone: A very right decision, if I may say so.
Mrs. Lincoln: It is.
Mr. Cuffney: And you, ma’am, have advised him that way, I’ll be bound.
Mrs. Lincoln: You said this was a great evening for me. It is, and I’ll say more than I mostly do, because it is. I’m likely to go into history now with a great man. For I know better than any how great he is. I’m plain looking and I’ve a sharp tongue, and I’ve a mind that doesn’t always go in his easy, high way. And that’s what history will see, and it will laugh a little, and say, “Poor Abraham Lincoln.” That’s all right, but it’s not all. I’ve always known when he should go forward, and when he should hold back. I’ve watched, and watched, and what I’ve learnt America will profit by. There are women like that, lots of them. But I’m lucky. My work’s going farther than Illinois—it’s going farther than any of us can tell. I made things easy for him to think and think when we were poor, and now his thinking has brought him to this. They wanted to make him Governor of Oregon, and he would have gone and have come to nothing there. I stopped him. Now they’re coming to ask him to be President, and I’ve told him to go.
Mr. Stone: If you please, ma’am, I should like to apologise for smoking in here.
Mrs. Lincoln: That’s no matter, Samuel Stone. Only, don’t do it again.
Mr. Cuffney: It’s a great place for a man to fill. Do you know how Seward takes Abraham’s nomination by the Republicans?
Mrs. Lincoln: Seward is ambitious. He expected the nomination. Abraham will know how to use him.
Mr. Stone: The split among the Democrats makes the election of the Republican choice a certainty, I suppose?
Mrs. Lincoln: Abraham says so.
Mr. Cuffney: You know, it’s hard to believe. When I think of the times I’ve sat in this room of an evening, and seen your husband come in, ma’am, with his battered hat nigh falling off the back of his head, and stuffed with papers that won’t go into his pockets, and god-darning some rascal who’d done him about an assignment or a trespass, I can’t think he’s going up there into the eyes of the world.
Mrs. Lincoln: I’ve tried for years to make him buy a new hat.
Mr. Cuffney: I have a very large selection just in from New York. Perhaps Abraham might allow me to offer him one for his departure.
Mrs. Lincoln: He might. But he’ll wear the old one.
Mr. Stone: Slavery and the South. They’re big things he’ll have to deal with. “The end of that is not yet.” That’s what old John Brown said, “the end of that is not yet.”
ABRAHAM LINCOLN comes in, a greenish and crumpled top hat leaving his forehead well uncovered, his wide pockets brimming over with documents. He is fifty, and he still preserves his clean-shaven state. He kisses his wife and shakes hands with his friends.
Lincoln: Well, Mary. How d’ye do, Samuel. How d’ye do, Timothy.
Mr. Stone and Mr. Cuffney: Good-evening, Abraham.
Lincoln (while he takes of his hat and shakes out sundry papers from the lining into a drawer): John Brown, did you say? Aye, John Brown. But that’s not the way it’s to be done. And you can’t do the right thing the wrong way. That’s as bad as the wrong thing, if you’re going to keep the state together.
Mr. Cuffney: Well, we’ll be going. We only came in to give you good-faring, so to say, in the great word you’ve got to speak this evening.
Mr. Stone: It makes a humble body almost afraid of himself, Abraham, to know his friend is to be one of the great ones of the earth, with his yes and no law for these many, many thousands of folk.
Lincoln: It makes a man humble to be chosen so, Samuel. So humble that no man but would say “No” to such bidding if he dare. To be President of this people, and trouble gathering everywhere in men’s hearts. That’s a searching thing. Bitterness, and scorn, and wrestling often with men I shall despise, and perhaps nothing truly done at the end. But I must go. Yes. Thank you, Samuel; thank you, Timothy. Just a glass of that cordial, Mary, before they leave.
He goes to a cupboard.
May the devil smudge that girl!
Calling at the door.
Susan! Susan Deddington! Where’s that darnation cordial?
Mrs. Lincoln: It’s all right, Abraham. I told the girl to keep it out. The cupboard’s choked with papers.
Susan (coming in with bottle and glasses): I’m sure I’m sorry. I was told—
Lincoln: All right, all right, Susan. Get along with you.
Susan: Thank you, sir. She goes.
Lincoln (pouring out drink): Poor hospitality for whiskey-drinking rascals like yourselves. But the thought’s good.
Mr. Stone: Don’t mention it, Abraham.
Mr. Cuffney: We wish you well, Abraham. Our compliments, ma’am. And God bless America! Samuel, I give you the United States, and Abraham Lincoln.
MR. CUFFNEY and MR. STONE drink.
Mrs. Lincoln: Thank you.
Lincoln: Samuel, Timothy—I drink to the hope of honest friends. Mary, to friendship. I’ll need that always, for I’ve a queer, anxious heart. And, God bless America!
He and MRS. LINCOLN drink.
Mr. Stone: Well, good-night, Abraham. Goodnight, ma’am.
Mr. Cuffney: Good-night, good-night.
Mrs. Lincoln: Good-night, Mr. Stone. Good-night, Mr. Cuffney.
Lincoln: Good-night, Samuel. Good-night, Timothy. And thank you for coming.
MR. STONE and MR. CUFFNEY go out.
Mrs. Lincoln: You’d better see them in here.
Lincoln: Good. Five minutes to seven. You’re sure about it, Mary?
Mrs. Lincoln: Yes. Aren’t you?
Lincoln: We mean to set bounds to slavery. The South will resist. They may try to break away from the Union. That cannot be allowed. If the Union is set aside America will crumble. The saving of it may mean blood.
Mrs. Lincoln: Who is to shape it all if you don’t?
Lincoln: There’s nobody. I know it.
Mrs. Lincoln: Then go.
Mrs. Lincoln (after a moment): This hat is a disgrace to you, Abraham. You pay no heed to what I say, and you think it doesn’t matter. A man like you ought to think a little about gentility.
Lincoln: To be sure. I forget.
Mrs. Lincoln: You don’t. You just don’t heed. Samuel Stone’s been smoking in here.
Lincoln: He’s a careless, poor fellow.
Mrs. Lincoln: He is, and a fine example you set him. You don’t care whether he makes my parlour smell poison or not.
Lincoln: Of course I do—
Mrs. Lincoln: You don’t. Your head is too stuffed with things to think about my ways. I’ve got neighbours if you haven’t.
Lincoln: Well, now, your neighbours are mine, I suppose.
Mrs. Lincoln: Then why won’t you consider appearances a little?
Lincoln: Certainly. I must.
Mrs. Lincoln: Will you get a new hat?
Lincoln: Yes, I must see about it.
Mrs. Lincoln: When?
Lincoln: In a day or two. Before long.
Mrs. Lincoln: Abraham, I’ve got a better temper than anybody will ever guess.
Lincoln: You have, my dear. And you need it, I confess.
SUSAN comes in.
Susan: The gentlemen have come.
Mrs. Lincoln: I’ll come to them.
Susan: Does the master want a handkerchief, ma’am? He didn’t take one this morning.
Lincoln: It’s no matter now, Susan.
Susan: If you please, I’ve brought you one, sir.
She gives it to him, and goes.
Mrs. Lincoln: I’ll send them in. Abraham, I believe in you.
Lincoln: I know, I know.
MRS. LINCOLN goes out. LINCOLN moves to a map of the United States that is hanging on the wall, and stands silently looking at it. After a few moments SUSAN comes to the door.
Susan: This way, please.
She shows in WILLIAM TUCKER, a florid, prosperous merchant; HENRY HIND, an alert little attorney; ELIAS PRICE, a lean lay preacher; and JAMES MACINTOSH, the editor of a Republican journal. SUSANgoes.
Tucker: Mr. Lincoln. Tucker my name is—William Tucker.
He presents his companions.
Mr. Henry Hind—follows your profession, Mr. Lincoln. Leader of the bar in Ohio. Mr. Elias Price, of Pennsylvania. You’ve heard him preach, maybe. James Macintosh you know. I come from Chicago.
Lincoln: Gentlemen, at your service. How d’ye do, James. Will you be seated?
They sit round the table.
Tucker: I have the honour to be chairman of this delegation. We are sent from Chicago by the Republican Convention, to enquire whether you will accept their invitation to become the Republican candidate for the office of President of the United States.
Price: The Convention is aware, Mr. Lincoln, that under the circumstances, seeing that the Democrats have split, this is more than an invitation to candidature. Their nominee is almost certain to be elected.
Lincoln: Gentlemen, I am known to one of you only. Do you know my many disqualifications for this work?
Hind: It’s only fair to say that they have been discussed freely.
Lincoln: There are some, shall we say graces, that I lack. Washington does not altogether neglect these.
Tucker: They have been spoken of. But these are days, Mr. Lincoln, if I may say so, too difficult, too dangerous, for these to weigh at the expense of other qualities that you were considered to possess.
Lincoln: Seward and Hook have both had great experience.
Macintosh: Hook had no strong support. For Seward, there are doubts as to his discretion.
Lincoln: Do not be under any misunderstanding, I beg you. I aim at moderation so far as it is honest. But I am a very stubborn man, gentlemen. If the South insists upon the extension of slavery, and claims the right to secede, as you know it very well may do, and the decision lies with me, it will mean resistance, inexorable, with blood if needs be. I would have everybody’s mind clear as to that.
Price: It will be for you to decide, and we believe you to be an upright man, Mr. Lincoln.
Lincoln: Seward and Hook would be difficult to carry as subordinates.
Tucker: But they will have to be carried so, and there’s none likelier for the job than you.
Lincoln: Will your Republican Press stand by me for a principle, James, whatever comes?
Macintosh: There’s no other man we would follow so readily.
Lincoln: If you send me, the South will have little but derision for your choice.
Hind: We believe that you’ll last out their laughter.
Lincoln: I can take any man’s ridicule—I’m trained to it by a … somewhat odd figure that it pleased God to give me, if I may so far be pleasant with you. But this slavery business will be long, and deep, and bitter. I know it. If you do me this honour, gentlemen, you must look to me for no compromise in this matter. If abolition comes in due time by constitutional means, good. I want it. But, while we will not force abolition, we will give slavery no approval, and we will not allow it to extend its boundaries by one yard. The determination is in my blood. When I was a boy I made a trip to New Orleans, and there I saw them, chained, beaten, kicked as a man would be ashamed to kick a thieving dog. And I saw a young girl driven up and down the room that the bidders might satisfy themselves. And I said then, “If ever I get a chance to hit that thing, I’ll hit it hard.”
You have no conditions to make?
Lincoln (rising): Mrs. Lincoln and I would wish you to take supper with us.
Tucker: That’s very kind, I’m sure. And your answer, Mr. Lincoln?
Lincoln: When you came, you did not know me, Mr. Tucker. You may have something to say now not for my ears.
Tucker: Nothing in the world, I assure—
Lincoln: I will prepare Mrs. Lincoln. You will excuse me for no more than a minute.
He goes out.
Tucker: Well, we might have chosen a handsomer article, but I doubt whether we could have chosen a better.
Hind: He would make a great judge—if you weren’t prosecuting.
Price: I’d tell most people, but I’d ask that man.
Tucker: He hasn’t given us yes or no yet. Why should he leave us like that, as though plain wasn’t plain?
Hind: Perhaps he wanted a thought by himself first.
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