AFFIDAVITS THAT CLASH
ORIGINAL IDEAS THAT ARE VERY MUCH ALIKE.
STATEMENTS AND ARGUMENTS ON THE RIVAL CLAIMS TO THE AUTHORSHIP OF "THE PRINCE AND THE PAUPER."
The promised argument in "The Prince and the Pauper" case drew to the motion chambers of the Court of Common Pleas yesterday morning many persons whom the case had interested. Mr. Hummel and assistants from his office were there on behalf of Manager Frohman and Abby Sage Richardson, Daniel Whitford of Alexander & Green represented Mark Twain, while the interests of the plaintiff in the action, Edward H. House, were looked after by Senator Ives and his partner, Rollin M. Morgan.
Mr. Hummel opened the proceedings by passing to the bench a copy of the book on which the play is founded, Mrs. Richardson's manuscript of the play, and a copy of the agreement of May 13, 1889, signed by Mark Twain, Mrs. Richardson, and Daniel Frohman, under which the book was dramatized and the play produced. Senator Ives at the same time passed up Mr. House's manuscript of the play.
Mrs. Richardson's answer was read by Mr. Hummel. It recited that she had read the book several years ago and had been well impressed with it. When "Little Lord Fauntleroy" was produced, it occurred to her that Elsie Leslie could make an equal success of "The Prince and the Pauper," and that the book could be satisfactorily dramatized. Thereupon she called upon Mr. Frohman and submitted to him a proposition to write a play from the book, suggesting Elsie for the dual role. Mr. Frohman liked the idea, but said it would cost a good deal of money to bring out the play, and that he would not feel warranted in doing anything with it unless Mrs. Richardson obtained from Mark Twain, in writing, sole and exclusive authority to dramatize the book.
In December, 1888, Mrs. Richardson went to Hartford to see Mark Twain. He informed her that three or four attempts had been made to make a play out of his book, but all had failed. If she wanted to go ahead and see what she could do, he was satisfied, but she must work out the play alone and not bother him about details. Afterward she submitted some of her ideas to him, among them the suggestion that the two roles of Prince and Pauper be taken by the same child. He declined to discuss any schemes with her, but did say that Mr. House had suggested the dual role and he had not approved of it, believing that the parts should be taken by two children.
The idea of a dual role, Mrs. Richardson says, could not be claimed as original by any one of late years, for it had been often employed on the stage. She clung to it in spite of Mark Twain's opposition. Thereafter no suggestions passed between them. She worked out the play unaided, and the situations, incidents, ideas, and the entire version were her own, and in no way a plagiarism or adaptation. Indeed, she had never seen Mr. House's manuscript or heard anything about its contents. This denial she meant to be sweeping enough to cover the witchcraft incident, which does not appear in the book, but is in Mr. House's manuscript as well as her own. She looked up the history, laws, and customs of the times in which the play was laid, and, finding witchcraft punishable with death, she decided to make that the charge against the woman who was supposed to have bewitched the King. The witchcraft incident of the play begins in Act IV in Mrs. Richardson's manuscript. In Mr. House's manuscript a similar incident is introduced in Act III.
Mr. Hummel next submitted Mr. Frohman's answer. Mr. Frohman admitted that Mr. House had given him notice that he had dramatized "The Prince and the Pauper" before the play came out. Mark Twain, being asked about it, had said that Mr. House tried to make a play of it, but failed, and that he never had a contract to write the play. As a matter of self protection, however, when Mr. Frohman made his final contract with Mark Twain and Mrs. Richardson, after this notice, he took care to insert a provision that Mrs. Richardson should defend any possible suit or application for an injunction to the extent of $1,000.
On behalf of Mark Twain, Lawyer Whitford submitted an affidavit saying that he proposed to Mr. House the dramatization of the play in December, 1886, and in reply received from Mr. House a letter full of qualified phrases, reciting that while he would be pleased to do something he was beset by physical limitations which rendered of doubtful value or utility his services in placing the play even after it should be written. There was no contract and no agreement of any kind. During the following Spring Mr. House went to Hartford for a social visit, not on business connected with the play, as claimed by him. While there he did dabble with the book in efforts to draw up a skeleton of a possible play, and there was more or less talk about it. Once during the visit he outlined his ideas of an act. The sketch contained hardly more than fifteen lines of dialogue, and it had never been used. From the time of that visit Mr. House had never talked of the play, nor had the deponent ever heard that Mr. House meant to write a play or had written one. All of the letters received from Mr. House had been saved. In none of them was there any allusion to me subject of dramatization. He had received no letters containing the alleged quotations in Mr. Houses' complaint.
Mr. Whitford held that if any contract or agreement existed it should be certain in terms, material in its character, fair, just, and founded on an adequate consideration. Then the case should be passed upon by a court of equity. It ought never to come up on an application for an injunction.
Senator Ives replied to all that both lawyers had presented. He said he was hardly surprised to be answered by affidavits denying everything that could be denied. He would like to submit counter-affidavits from Mr. House as soon as they could be prepared. Mr. House had informed him that when n April last he gave notice to Mr. Frohman that he had dramatized the book Mr. Frohman replied: "If that is so I will make no agreement." When Mr. Frohman did make an agreement, a month later and before the play was written, he took care to protect himself against liability in possible suits, showing that he had profited by Mr. House's notice.
As to Mrs. Richardson's claim of originality, Senator Ives though it as least singular that the ideas of the dual role and of the witchcraft incident should have occurred to her precisely as they had occurred to Mr. House two years before, when he presented these ideas to her partner, Mark Twain. The book did not as much as suggest either idea. Last April Mr. Frohman got his notice from Mr. House. He informed Mr. Clemens (Mark Twain) of it, and was assured that Mr. House had no claim. Mr. Clemens's word, however, did not entirely satisfy Mr. Frohman, and before he made is final agreement in May for the production of the play he insisted that he should be fully protected against a lawsuit. Mr. Frohman and Mr. Clemens thus both knew of Mr. House's notice.
Mr. Clemens's affidavit, Senator Ives went on, seemed suggestive of ingenious duplicity. He had received many letters from House, but none of those quoted in House's complaint. The mail might sometimes miscarry, but not regularly. It could be shown by the original letters submitted in court that they were written by Clemens in reply to the very letters from which quotations had been made for House's complaint. In the forthcoming supplemental affidavit from Mr. House, Senator Ives believed that it would clearly appear that Clemens often purposely avoided discussion of the play, as if contemplating duplicity, but by answering other portions of the letters set a snare for himself and walked into it.
Elsewhere in the affidavit Mr. Clemens said that his own dramatization of the book "was not entirely satisfactory, but could be made so without much difficulty." Against this sworn statement of yesterday Mr. Ives placed Mr. Clemens's letter to Mr. House, dated Dec. 17, 1886, in which Mr. Clemens wrote: "I can't dramatize it. The reason I say this is because I did dramatize it and made a bad batch of it."
Next Monday Mr. House's new affidavit and perhaps others from other defendants will be submitted in
Related articles concerning the Prince and Pauper:
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A YANKEE IN
THE CRUSADING JOURNALIST
EDWARD H. HOUSE
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