Tuesday, January 25, 2011


You’ll see things one way, like blindly seeking amongst the kids’ book shrubbery for the two tigers in the leaves and then CLICK, they’re there, and you can never UNSEE them again.

Just a normal morning last week, browsing amongst my favorite blogs---mostly those which I visit every time their name bumps up the sidebar---and I scrolled down to the picture on Marty Kittrell’s blog. I've always given the stones depicted by Marty a deep importance, for they are of my own heritage, of the Mississippi of my raising, and even so, just the names and dates and endless lists lists lists are testament to the hard-won lives of our ancestors. But this one---this one little broken piece of marble just stood out, as if I'd seen it before, or just must decipher the lost little letters. It must have been a dainty, beautiful thing when first inscribed and put there---the writing so serenely timeless and the words sweet and warm against the cool stone.

Instantly captivated, for that small moment only by the puzzle of the thing, the put-the-pieces-together mechanics of it, to make a coherent whole of the shattered bits, to form words of the folded and hidden letters, I felt myself drawn into that picture, downdown inside the rough husks of the sered grass framing the stone, and into the time and place and the WHO of the thing.

I idly Googled the name: Methua. Guido Methua, Before reading all that came after on the stone, I found his name listed in quite a few small mentions, as an artist, a scenic painter of various theaters, and the husband of a prominent actress, Madame Marie Methua Scheller---Scheller being her maiden name, for she was already an actress of note in Germany when she came to America in 1858. I’m only supposing that she put her husband’s name in her own as an honor to him, rather than keeping sternly to her own theatrical persona, or if it were a custom of her heritage, but I found it odd that his name was in the spot where our own maiden names would be.

Then there was her name, and though there were no birthdates listed, another name, perhaps that of a child. But that could not BE---not all three, not on one gravestone, barring a great tragic circumstance of the Titanic genre, or a great craze of grief on the part of one or the other when bereft of both partner and child in one sweep.

And the sweet sentiment---was the Mr. Nobles an admirer, a friend, someone of a deeper relationship in which he, too, was mourning a lost love? Too many novels, too many Lifetime movies have passed across the horizon of our days, and all the trites and the clichés and the plot twists and pat endings just flew like crazed moths around the flicker of this enigma, and I just settled in to dig deeper into the mystery.

And now, since the CLICK, I’ve been immersed in the times and the days---imagining the hustle and bustle of the theater backstage, and the work and the creaky boards and the makeup and the scents and sounds and the fumes of the footlights and the rustles of the the crowds in city after city, as they made their way across the country and made their way in the world.

She worked with Edwin Booth and many other actors of note in the day, playing dramas and musicals and Shakespeare---appearing in tights in Hamlet, as a quite acclaimed Ophelia.

From the Sacramento Daily Union, April 13, 1864

Madame Methua Scheller closed her engagement at the Boston Theater on the 4th uit. Her debut on the American stage was highly successful, "her songs were encored, and she was called out three times during the evening.

The Boston Transcript says of her performance:

"Madame Scheller seems to be an actress who never sacrifices nature to artificial absurdities, and in portrayal of character is direct, unaffected and unassuming."

And there, I believe we’ll leave her for a moment---beneath the stage lights, in the first flush of her American triumphs, bright and beautiful and young and so, so alive---hearing the applause, receiving the flowers, and reading the reviews.


Beverly said...

My heart is quivering in anticipation.

My husband and I are the genealogy buffs in our family. We've had many adventures tombstone hunting.

Southern Lady said...

Oh, I can't wait to hear the rest of her story, Rachel. I wonder if she ever played in the opera house in Rodney. I read that its citizens saw many of the plays usually seen in New York and Philadelphia.

Kim Shook said...

Beautiful post, Rachel. So THAT'S how REAL writers get their ideas! You are an amazing woman, my dearest friend.

Kat said...

Hi sweet friend! I've missed a few days so I scrolled down to start where I left off. Wonderful post. Can't wait to go now and read the next installment!


Anonymous said...

I believe they died in the Yellow Fever epidemic of September 1878.

A Super Dilettante said...

My dear Rachel,

Thank you so much for telling me about this beautiful post. I am so grateful to you for this post. You are a born story teller in every way. I live in every word you wrote and your attention to details is a mark of the good writer. I have replied in detail in my response to your most charming comment you left me yesterday. I will keep coming back to read this story again.

Best wishes, ASD