• Soprano Emma Eames was often asked to sing at benefits, and occasionally she got annoyed at society ladies who expected much for charity from her but little from themselves. She once made a proposal to some such society ladies who asked her to perform free at a benefit concert: “I will, on one condition. You are all wealthy ladies, far wealthier than I. Now, my usual [fee for singing] is £300. I will contribute that by singing, on condition that each of you will sign for the same amount.” The society ladies said that they would think about it, and they did not bother her again. Music critic Henry T. Finck, a friend to Ms. Eames, wrote in My Adventures in the Golden Age of Music, his autobiography, “The charity of society women too often resembles Mark Twain’s climbing of the Swiss mountains — by proxy.” Ms. Eames was an independent spirit who was not afraid of offending people. She once said to Mr. Finck’s wife, “I love to give parties for the pleasure of leaving out certain persons who want to come.”
• United States painter and teacher William M. Chase knew art. A Congressman who did not know art went around telling people about a bad painting that he owned, “Isn’t that grand? A great bargain, too. Got it for four hundred dollars, and William M. Chase says it is worth ten thousand dollars.” A friend of the painter heard what the Congressman had said, and the friend asked Mr. Chase about it. Mr. Chase explained, “He cornered me one day and wanted me to fix a value on it, but I told him I couldn’t do it. He then came at me with a question I couldn’t dodge: ‘Well, Mr. Chase, how much would you charge to paint a picture like that?’ I assured him most honestly that I wouldn’t paint one like it for ten thousand dollars.”
• Soprano Kirsten Flagstad was good friends with her accompanist, Edwin McArthur, and often relied on him when she needed help. Following World War II, she left Norway and journeyed to Sweden, but she was not allowed to take much money with her. From the Carlton Hotel in Stockholm, she cabled Mr. McArthur, “I Am Here Without Funds. Please Do Something.” Fortunately, Mr. McArthur was able to arrange for her to receive money. By the way, the first time Ms. Flagstad heard Tristan und Isolde, she was very bored and could barely keep awake. Later, she became famous for her singing of Wagnerian roles, including the role of Isolde.
• John Phillip Sousa had a very difficult time selling his first composition. He trudged from one music company to another hoping to make a sale, but had no success. Finally, he made up his mind to either make a sale at the next music company, or give up entirely. He went inside, made his pitch to sell the composition for $25, but the manager said he would not pay 25 cents for it. Ready to give up, Mr. Sousa turned to leave, then noticed several dictionaries by the door. He asked the manager, “Will you give me a dictionary for it?” The manager was willing, and so Mr. Sousa sold his first composition for a dictionary.
• At the sale of the pictures that belonged to Henri Rouart, a journalist asked artist Edgar Degas, “Do you know how much your picture of two dancers at the bar, with a watering can, just sold for?” Mr. Degas replied, “No, I don’t.” The journalist told him the very high figure: 475,000 francs! Mr. Degas admitted, “That isa nice price.” The journalist then asked, “Don’t you think it outrageous that this picture will never bring you more than the five hundred francs you were paid for it?” Mr. Degas replied, “Monsieur, I am like the racehorse that wins the Grand Prize: I am satisfied with my ration of oats.”
Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved
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