Wheeling Library Association, 1867
-from The Wheeling Intelligencer, June 17, 1867:
An official call is issued this morning for a general meeting of the stockholders of the Wheeling Library Association at the Library Hall this evening. Without venturing into details, we may say that this meeting appertains to the forthcoming appearance of Murdoch, the eminent tragedian and dramatic reader, who is to appear at Washington Hall on the evening of the 28th and 29th inst., under the auspices of the Library Association.
It is determined to make these readings a success if possible, not only because of their inherent merits, but also on account of the interest that is felt in making them redound to the pecuniary interest of the Library Association, an institution by the way that appeals to the public spirit and the moral and intellectual generosity of every man, woman and child in our midst.
The present Board of Directors have determined that they will exhaust every effort to sustain the Library Association before giving up the undertaking as a hopeless enterprise. They appreciate its value as part and parcel of the good name of the city, and as the leading institution of elevation and refinement in Wheeling, and they realize that after keeping it up for so many years with such appreciable benefit to the public, it would be a reflection upon our entire citizenship to allow it to drag out an inefficient existence. The directors feel encouraged to hope that the time has come when a series of first class intellectual entertainments can be presented to the public with a fair prospect of success.
Hitherto it has been said of Wheeling that nothing save a circus, a negro minstrel show, or a traveling troupe of some sort, could count on success. Unfortunately there has been too much truth in the remark, but we think that there is now enough cultivated taste and public pride within the city limits to materially modify this reputation, and give us a different name in the future.
We need not tell the public who James E. Murdoch is. Suffice it to say that no such dramatist has ever appeared before a Wheeling audience, so far as our recollection serves us. Those who want to see and feel what power there is in native genius and the ripest artistic culture must come to his readings on the evenings announced. Charles Dickens nightly holds audiences of the British nobility and gentry entranced with similar entertainments. And yet it may be doubted whether even Dickens, matchless as is his genius as a writer, is the equal of Murdoch as a reader. Reading Shakespeare, Dickens, Thackery, and other popular authors, may appear, at first thought, a dry entertainment to some people, but they have only to hear a great reader in order to realize for the first time in their lives what a moving and fascinating power there is in words uttered by a man who illustrates every syllable as Murdoch can, and does, and will illustrate them at his readings here. The value that is set on his talent can be judged by the fact that for along while past the Library Association have been endeavoring to obtain his services. Owing to his many engagements they have always been hitherto disappointed. This time they have succeeded, and the agreement is to pay him one hundred dollars per night, which with other expenses, will be equal to one hundred fifty dollars per evening.
The question is, will out public stand by the Library Association in this enterprise? Do they want entertainments of this character provided? for it should be understood that if this one fails, it will probably be a long time before another is attempted. Have we taste, culture, and refinement enough in the city to make the readings of a man like Murdoch a success? This is the problem. We feel reasonably assured that the enterprise will be a success.
At all events, the live men of the Library Association will meet this evening to inaugurate the necessary steps for the fullest possible effort to achieve a glorious success. We trust that every stockholder who can attend will be on hands at a reasonable hour in the evening.
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