September 2, 1850.The long expectation is overJenny Lind has landed on our shores. It was confidently expected yesterday morning that the Atlantic would arrive in the course of the day, and crowds collected on all points where a lookout down the bay could be had, eager to catch the first glimpse of her hull in the distance.
Toward 1 o'clock, two guns were heard in the direction of Sandy Hook, and immediately after the signal-flag of a steamer was run up at the telegraph station above Clifton. In a few minutes the Atlantic hove in sight, her giant bulk looming through the light mist which still lay on the outer bay. . . . On the top of a light deckhouse, erected over the forward companionway, sat the subject of the day's excitementthe veritable Jenny Lindas fresh and rosy as if the sea had spared her its usual discomforts, and enjoying the novel interest of everything she saw, with an apparent unconsciousness of the observation she excited. At her side stood Mr. Jules Benedict, the distinguished composer, and Signor Giovanni Belleti, the celebrated basso, her artistic companion.
Mr. Barnum,2 who had by this time climbed on board, with a choice bouquet carefully stuck in the bosom of his white vest, was taken forward and presented by Captain West. But Mr. Collins had for once stolen a march on him, having got on board in advance, and presented to Miss Lind a bouquet about three times the size of Barnum's. The songstress received the latter with great cordiality.
Her manners are very frank and engaging, and there is an expression of habitual good humor in her clear, blue eye, which would win her the heart of a crowd by a single glance. She is about twenty-nine years of age, and rather more robust in face and person that her portraits would indicate. Her forehead is finely formed, shaded by waves of pale brown hair; her eyes, light blue and joyous; her nose and mouth, tho molded on the large Swedish type, convey an impression of benevolence and sound goodness of heart, which is thoroughly in keeping with the many stories we have heard of her charitable doings. Mademoiselle Lind was drest with great taste and simplicity. She wore a visite of rich black cashmere over a dress of silver-gray silk, with a pale blue silk hat and black veil. At her feet lay a silky little lap-dog, with ears almost half the length of its body; it was of that rare breed which are worth their weight in gold, and was a present from Queen Victoria. . . .
As soon as Captain West had conducted Mademoiselle Lind to the gangway, the rush commenced. Mademoiselle Ahmansen, with Messrs. Benedict and Belleti, followed, and all four took their seats in the carriage, Mr. Barnum mounting to the driver's place. The crowd inside the gates immediately surrounded the carriage, clinging to the wheels and crowding about the windows, cheering all the while with an enthusiasm we never saw surpassed. The multitude outside began to press against the gates, which were unbolted in all haste to prevent being forced in. Scarcely had one gate been thrown back, however, before the torrent burst in, with an energy frightful to witness. The other half of the gate instantly gave way, the planks snapping like reeds before the pressure. The foremost ranks were forced down upon the floor, and those behind, urged on from without, were piled upon them till a serious loss of life seemed almost inevitable. The spectacle was most alarming; some forty or fifty persons lay crusht by the inexorable crowd, stretching out their hands and crying for help. Finally, some of the police officers, and some of the gentlemen who happened to be near, succeeded with great difficulty in driving back the crowd and rescuing the sufferers. Many were severely bruised, some came off with bloody noses, and two boys, about twelve years of age, appeared to be seriously injured. Had not the rush been checked in time, many lives would have been lost.
The carriage containing the freight of song was started with difficulty, owing to the enthusiastic crowd around it. Mademoiselle Lind and her cousin, Mademoiselle Ahmansen, occupied the back seat; the former bowed repeatedly as she passed through the gathered thousands. The people fell back respectfully and made way, literally heaping the carriage with flowers as she passed along. More than 200 bouquets were thrown into the windows. Once clear of the throng, the carriage was driven off rapidly and succeeded in reaching the Irving House without allowing the people in the streets time to collect. Mademoiselle Lind's elegant suite of apartments in the second story of the hotel were all in readiness, and a couple of police officers crowded the entrance in Chambers Street to prevent the crowd from rushing in. The block around the Irving House was filled with a dense mass of people, with heads upturned, gazing at the different windows, many of which were graced with ladies; but Jenny not among them. At last she appeared at one of the parlor windows opening on Broadway, and there was a general stampede to get sight of her. She bowed repeatedly and kissed her hand in answer to the cheers; her face wore a radiant and delighted expression, and her whole demeanor was winning and graceful.
Her arrival created nearly as much excitement in the Irving House as in the streets. There are at present 530 guests in the house, and each one is anxious to get a glimpse of her. All the passages leading to her apartments are crowded. The great flag of Sweden and Norway was hoisted on the flag-staff of the Irving House immediately upon her arrival. Throughout the evening crowds continued to collect about the hotel, and so incessant were their calls that she was obliged to appear twice again at the windows. Finally, being quite exhausted by the excitement of the day, she retired, and her faithful Swedish servants kept watch to prevent disturbance.
September 9.Notwithstanding the pouring rain on Saturday morning, great numbers of people wended their way down Broadway at an early hour, to attend the ticket auction at Castle Garden for the first concert of Jenny Lind. The rain, which came down in torrents sufficient to damp everybody's ardor at the hour of commencing the performances, no doubt deterred a number who would otherwise have entered into the spirit of the scene with ardor. At least 3,000 persons were present, filling the whole body of the Garden, and leaving a goodly number to occupy the balcony. The auctioneer, Mr. Leeds, appeared punctually at the time appointed. Mr. Barnum appeared a few minutes before the bidding commenced, and was greeted by the most tumultuous and enthusiastic applause.
Mr. Leeds now mounted his platform, and made an off-hand statement of the rules and regulations of the day. All the tickets sold must be called for before 12 o'clock on Monday (to-day). All those not applied for at the time specified will be disposed of to the first person applying. The choice of tickets was sold with the privilege of purchasing 1 to 10. No privilege higher than 10 was given.
Now commenced the exciting struggle for the first choice. The first bid was $20. From this starting point the calls grew louder and more energetic. "Twenty-five""thirty""thirty-five""forty""sixty""seventy-five""eighty"("Give me the $100," cried Mr. Leeds), "ninety""one hundred" (auctioneer"I've got it!")"one hundred and five" ("a very low price! Mr. Leeds")"one hundred and ten""twenty-five" "thirty""forty""one hundred and fifty""one hundred and seventy-five""two hundred" (loud cheers)"two hundred and twenty-five" ($225). Here there was at last a stop, and curious glances were shot around to discover the fortunate candidate.
"Genin, Hatter," was announced. So the honor of the first purchase is fairly won by Mr. John N. Genin, the well-known hatter, of No. 214 Broadway.3 The competition for this choice was very spirited, and there were many candidates for the honor. The announcement of the success of Mr. Genin was received with a tremendous outburst of applause.
The bidding then proceeded with considerable rapidity, and in comparative quietness, tho there were still abundant tokens of enthusiasm. The second choice of seats sold for $25. The third brought $15. The stage box on the left (four seats, at $35 each) was sold to the New York Hotel for $140. The remaining box has been reserved for Mademoiselle Lind herself. Several single chairs near the stage were sold at $8.50 each, and a number at $8. The next seats offered were in the front row of the balcony, which brought $5 to $9.50 each. The front bench seats below, in the rear of the chairs, brought $7, $6.50 and $5 each. The second row brought about the same. The bidding for the second row of the balcony was finished about 2 P.M.; the prices ranged from $7.50 to $5.
Upward of 1,400 seats were disposed of by 3 o'clock, and the sale was adjourned till Monday, since it became necessary to clear the house for the operatic performance of the evening. The 1,400 seats were disposed of at an average of nearly $6.50 per seat. As the sale proceeds, it is likely that this average will be reduced, but probably not below $5. At this rate Jenny Lind's first concert in America will realize for the manager about $30,000.
September 12.Jenny Lind's first concert is over, and all doubts are at an end. She is the greatest singer we have ever heard, and her success is all that was anticipated from her genius and her fame. All the preparatory arrangements for the concert were made with great care, and from an admirable system observed none of the usual disagreeable features of such an event were experienced. Outside of the gate there was a double row of policemen extending up the main avenue of the Battery grounds.4 Carriages only were permitted to drive up to the gate from the Whitehall side, and pass over into Battery Place. At one time the line of carriages extended to Whitehall and up State Street into Broadway. The chief of police with about sixty men came on the ground at five o'clock, and maintained the most complete order to the end. Mr. Barnum, according to promise, had put up a substantial framework, and thrown an immense awning over the bridge, which is some 200 feet in length. This was brilliantly lighted, and had almost the appearance of a triumphal avenue on entering the gate. There was an immense crowd on the Battery clustering around the gates during the whole evening, but no acts of disorder occurred. When Jenny Lind's carriage came, but very few persons knew it, and no great excitement followed.
The principal annoyance was occasioned by a noisy crowd of boys in boats, who gathered around the outer wall of the Castle, and, being by their position secure from the police, tried to disturb those within by a hideous clamor of shouts and yells, accompanied by a discordant din of drums and fifes. There must have been more than 200 boats and 1,000 persons on the water. They caused some annoyance to that portion of the audience in the back seats of the balcony, but the nuisance was felt by none in the parquette. By 10 o'clock they had either become tired or ashamed of the contemptible outrage they were attempting, and dispersed.
On entering the Castle, a company of ushers, distinguished by their badges, were in readiness to direct the visitor to that part of the hall where their seats were located. Colored lamps and hangings suspended to the pillars indicated at a glance the different divisions, and the task of seating the whole audience of near 7,000 persons was thus accomplished without the least inconvenience. The hall was brilliantly lighted, tho from its vast extent the stage looked somewhat dim. The wooden partition which was built up in place of the drop curtain is covered with a painting representing the combined standards of America and Sweden, below which are arabesque ornaments in white and gold. Considering the short time allowed for these improvements, the change was remarkable. The only instance of bad taste which we noticed was a large motto, worked in flowers, suspended over the pillars of the balcony, directly in front of the stage. "Welcome, Sweet Warbler" (so ran the words) was not only tame and commonplace, but out of place.
The sight of the grand hall, with its gay decorations, its glittering lamps, and its vast throng of expectant auditors, was in itself almost worth a $6 ticket. We were surprized to notice that not more than one-eighth of the audience were ladies. They must stay at home, it seems, when the tickets are high, but the gentlemen go, nevertheless. For its size, the audience was one of the most quiet, refined and appreciative we ever saw assembled in this city. . . .
Now came a moment of breathless expectation. A moment more, and Jenny Lind, clad in a white dress which well became the frank sincerity of her face, came forward through the orchestra. It is impossible to describe the spontaneous burst of welcome which greeted her. The vast assembly rose as one man, and for some minutes nothing could be seen but the waving of hands and handkerchiefs, nothing heard but a storm of tumultuous cheers. The enthusiasm of the moment, for a time beyond all bounds, was at last subdued, after prolonging itself by its own fruitless efforts to subdue itself, and the divine songstress, with that perfect bearing, that air of a dignity and sweetness, blending a childlike simplicity and half-trembling womanly modesty with the beautiful confidence of genius and serene wisdom of art, addrest herself to song, as the orchestral symphony prepared the way for the voice in "Casta Diva."
A better test piece could not have been selected for her début. Every soprano lady has sung it to us; but nearly every one has seemed only trying to make something of it, while Jenny Lind was the very music of it for the time being. We would say no less than that; for the wisest and honestest part of criticism on such a first hearing of a thing so perfect, was to give itself purely up to it, without question, and attempt no analysis of what too truly fills one to have yet begun to be an object of thought.
If it were possible, we would describe the quality of that voice, so pure, so sweet, so fine, so whole and all-pervading, in its lowest breathings a miniature fioriture as well as in its strongest volume. We never heard tones which in their sweetness went so far. They brought the most distant and ill-seated auditor close to her. They were tones, every one of them, and the whole air had to take the law of their vibrations. The voice and the delivery had in them all the good qualities of all the good singers. Song in her has that integral beauty which at once proclaims it as a type for all, and is most naturally worshiped as such by the multitude. . . .
Her voice is a genuine soprano, reaching the extra high notes with that ease and certainty which make each highest one a triumph of expression purely, and not a physical marvel. The gradual growth and sostenuto of her tones; the light and shade, rhythmic undulation and balance of her passages; the birdlike ecstasy of her trill; faultless precision and fluency of her chromatic scales; above all, the sure reservation of such volume of voice as to crown each protracted climax with glory, not needing a new effort to raise force for the final blow; and indeed all the points one looks for in a mistress of the vocal art, were eminently hers in "Casta Diva," but the charm lay not in any point, but rather in the inspired vitality, the hearty, genuine outpouring of the wholethe real and yet truly ideal humanity of all her singing. That is what has won the world to Jenny Lind; it is that her whole soul and being, goes out in her song, and that her voice becomes the impersonation of that song's soul if it have any, that is, if it be a song. There is plainly no vanity in her, no aim to effect; it is all frank and real and harmoniously earnest. . . .
At the close, the audience (who made no movement to leave till the last note had been uttered), broke out in a tempest of cheers, only less vehement than those which welcomed her in "Casta Diva." She came forward again, bowed with a bright, grateful face, and retired. The cheers were now mingled with shouts of "Barnum," who at last came forward, and with some difficulty obtained sufficient order to speak. "My friends," said he, "you have often heard it asked, 'Where's Barnum?' " Amid the cheers and laughter which followed this, we could only catch the words: "Henceforth, you may say, 'Barnum's nowhere!'"
Mr. Barnum, after expressing his gratification at the splendid welcome which had been given Mademoiselle Lind, stated that he would disclose a piece of news which he could no longer keep secret, and which would show how well that welcome was deserved. Mademoiselle Lind on Monday morning informed him that it was her intention to give her share of the net proceeds of the present concert, amounting to considerably more than $10,000, to the various charities of this city. This announcement was the signal for another storm. We did not count the number of cheers given, but we never witnessed such a pitch of enthusiasm. Mr. Barnum then proceeded to read the list of her donations, interrupted at every name by a fresh burst of applause:
To the Fire Department Fund, $3,000; Musical Fund Society, $2,000; Home for the Friendless, $500; Society for the Relief of Indigent Females, $500; Dramatic Fund Association, $500; Home for Colored and Aged Persons, $500; Colored and Orphan Association, $500; Lying-in Asylum for Destitute Females, $500; Protestant Half-orphan Asylum, $500; Roman Catholic Half-orphan Asylum, $500; total, $10,000.
In case the money coming to her shall exceed this sum, she will hereafter designate the charity to which it is to be appropriated. Mr. Barnum was then about to retire, when there was a universal call for Jenny Lind. The songstress, however, had already taken her departure, and the excited crowd, after giving a few more cheers, followed her example, and slowly surged out of the Castle door, and down the canopied bridge, in a glow of good humor and admiration. A few disorderly vagrants collected on the bridges leading to the bath-houses hooted at the throng as it passed out, but everybody went home quietly, with a new joy at his heart, and a new thought in his brain.
1 As reported in the New York Tribune.
2 P. T. Barnum.
3 Genin's venture has always been regarded as an extremely clever advertising investment.
4 The opera-house of that day was Castle Garden, now the Aquarium. Originally it was known as Castle Clinton.