Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Hendrik* + Henrik* (for Henrik* or Hendrik*)

Today marks the birthday of Minnie Maddern Fiske, who was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, in 1865. Her mother, Lizzie Maddern, had been an actress in the theater and Minnie, who began acting professionally at the age of five, seemed to have been born to the boards as well. Baptized Marie Augusta Davey, even her thoroughly-modern-Minnie sort of stage name seemed to have proved a bit much for her fans, as she eventually became known simply as "Mrs. Fiske." According to Wikipedia, Minnie Maddern Fiske was "widely considered the most important actress on the American stage in the first quarter of the 20th century." She led the fight against the Theatrical Syndicate (just as heavy-handed and anti-artistic as it sounds) and is also credited with introducing American audiences to the Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen. Ibsen was apparently sympathetic to women and their struggle for equality, having authored the iconic A Doll's House in 1879. Fiske was married twice but had no children, and was "one of the most prominent animal welfare advocates of her era." (Mark Twain wrote the story "A Horse's Tale" for her.) About her idol Ibsen, Maddern herself once wrote: "... even Shakespeare seems easy when compared with the thought that must be bestowed upon Ibsen. The beautiful verse, the wonderful character drawing of Shakespeare furnish solutions of perplexing problems, but Ibsen is so elusive. He fascinates by his aloofness. He is the Wagner of the drama. Wagner struggled for understanding just as Ibsen has struggled." You shouldn't have to struggle too hard to find evidence of today's typo, discovered 59 times in OhioLINK, and "too many..." times in WorldCat.

(Portrait of Minnie Maddern Fiske, by Zaida Ben-Yusuf, entitled "Mrs. Fiske, Love finds the way," from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

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