Minna K. Gale-Haynes


Do not marry when grief shadows the soul,

For mistakes are often made.

Mr. Haynes said he loved me,

and I believed it, for I was a beautiful girl.

Even my worst critics said so.

The ring was cold, but I smiled as it slipped over my finger.

Soon I realized he loved Juliet, Beatrice,

Portia, and Parthenia.

But what of that?

Perhaps I could learn to love him.

At least in some manner.

But an actress must leave her craft behind sometimes.

It cannot become a life,

alpha and omega,

on and off the stage.

After awhile I could no longer feign

what I did not feel.

And so he discovered the truth:

that I imagined his lips were another's,

lips that had rebuked me many times

before declaring I was his angel, his light.

As he was mine, taken from me on Death's wings

too soon, too soon.

The night of our first union was a surprise to us both.

He was forty-nine, I twenty.

Happy husband and blushing ingénue,

mentor and student became forbidden lovers.

The snide critics are right:

he indeed taught me all I know.

But Shame eventually came to me,

a betraying body,

and I surrendered her fresh from the childbed.

Oh Elizabeth,

forgive your mother.

(Minna Gale did have an illegitimate daughter. According to a letter signed by the child's ward, she gave birth on February 7, 1888. However, it is not feasible since she was performing on stage in New Orleans and would hardly have been continuing to act since she was unmarried. Much more convincing is that she left the country to give birth, as Minna Gale did travel to Europe and came home by way of the Caribbean during July-September 1889. If there's anything I've learned from looking at old records, it's that birthyears and birthplaces are very fluid. The girl's father is unknown, alleged to be a Russian singer who conveniently died en route to Europe and buried at sea. Lawrence Barrett is only conjecture from circumstances, such as traveling to Europe during the same time period as Minna in 1889 and the two being fierce advocates of the other among friends and in print. Despite some scathing criticism in the first tours she did with Barrett and Edwin Booth, Barrett insisted on retaining her and making her a better performer. He succeeded, and perhaps it's arrogant to assume that there were deeper feelings, but I wholeheartedly believe it.)