Anne Jane Hartley Gilbert (October 21, 1821-December 2, 1904)
Known in theatre circles as Mrs. Gilbert, she was noted for playing character parts. At the age of 12 she entered ballet school at Her Majesty's Theatre, receiving free training in return for appearing in crowd scenes there and at the Drury Lane Theatre. In 1846 she married George Henry Gilbert, a dancer and stage manager. After three years of touring in the provinces she emigrated to America.
For the last thirty years of the nineteenth century, she was regarded as the foremost representative of older character women on the American stage. Two qualities of her acting were most notable. Her training as a dancer gave her a gracefulness of movement and gesture that made her characterizations seem spontaneous and unaffected. Above all, she was concerned with "thinking myself into a part" and strictly observing the author's original conception of a character.
Source: Barrett, Daniel. "Notable Women in the American Theatre"
From her autobiography, she reminisces about what it was like to work with Edwin Forrest.
Edwin Forrest was born March 6, 1806 in a small house in the Southwark section of Philadelphia. He was a born actor.Though his first stage appearance was a dismal failure, he refused to be beaten. And so he tried again. At the age of thirteen he acted Young Norval at the Tivoli Garden with indifferent success. A year later at the old Walnut Street Theatre he played the same part in a splendid stock company . The date was November 27, 1820 and it marks the real start of Edwin Forrest as an actor to be reckoned with.
One New York critic later on described him thus: "Edwin Forrest has handsome, regular features. He is the greatest actor America ever produced. He is about five feet ten inches tall, splendid of figure, though perhaps a trifle too heavy and powerful. This makes him seem out of place in parts such as Hamlet but he is very graceful nonetheless."
Source: Frohman, Daniel. Encore
EDWIN FORREST from the pages of Mrs. Gilbert's autobiography.
I always used to say that I played with Forrest in his last engagement in New York.
That was at this same Broadway Theatre. But they tell me that he played a short
engagement at Niblo's Garden afterward; a few nights only, but just enough to spoil
the point of my story! However, he played for six weeks at the Broadway in '67,
doing all his great parts, though not with his old vigor, for he had been ill, and
seemed broken and old. But his very weakness added a pathos to his work that
it had lacked before, and they say that his King Lear was most touching at this time.
I did not act with him in that play, and, indeed, they spared me as much as they could,
for my husband had just died, and my boy was very ill. But I was the Queen in Mr.
Forrest's one performance of “Hamlet” during this engagement and I admired his
rendering. In the earlier days his Hamlet was too robust, and it had never been
among his great successes. But at the time of which I speak it was quite perfect.
He opened his engagement with Virginius, and I was cast for Servia. As
I entered and began my lines at rehearsal, he said, quietly: “That's right.” From
him that meant a great deal, for although he did not storm about as much as people
say he did, he seldom praised. He wanted intelligence and care from those who
supported him, and it was probably stupidity and indifference that caused the rages
we have heard so much about. Obstinacy annoyed him beyond everything else.
They tell a story of a woman who was to have been the Emelia to his Othello,
and who would kneel to the audience, and protest her innocence with her arms in
the air in the old-fashioned way, and he could not get her to look up at him. Now
he was a naturalist in his work, one of the first of his profession to step outside the
traditions and in this particular case he lost all patience---he could use an oath or two
when he was too much tried----and it all ended in his giving the part to someone else.
I did Emelia at the Broadway, and strained my voice in the role......I forget the order
in which Forrest gave his plays, but I think I did nothing after the Emelia, but before
that I had done the Lady Anne to his Richard 111. I had played that role before with
Forrest, in my earlier days. He was then at his best physically, and had the name of
having a tremendous temper, but I never saw him angry without cause. He was very
muscular, and could pick a man up and throw him off the stage if he liked. In “Damon
and Pythias” he really had to do this, and if the man had been stupid, or had done
anything Forrest did not like, he was apt to get a bad tumble. I know it got so that
the men did not like to take that part, for it might happen that they would be
genuinely pitched off the stage, and they never knew how they would land.”