When Sarah Bernhardt met Thomas Alva Edison; first encounters
Saturday 11 May 1996
Her motives are less clear. She had finished her New York run and was en route to Boston; Menlo Park, New Jersey, lay in the opposite direction. What in that cold, snowy December of 1880 prompted so deliberate a detour? Perhaps the same sense of adventure that impelled her to ride out on to the partially built Brooklyn Bridge, to go down into a Pennsylvania coal mine, and to leap about on the ice floes of the St Lawrence. Was not the 33-year-old inventor another American wonder to be experienced?
The train reached Menlo Park at 2am - little problem for the routinely nocturnal Edison; more of one for Mrs E, who had prepared supper. Dimly lit carriages transported Bernhardt's party along the dark road. As they neared the house, she saw "the whole country suddenly illuminated". Hundreds of electric lights strung from the trees were reflected by the snow to dazzling effect. The carriage stopped; she alighted. Edison took her extended hand.
Later, touring the lab, the sylphid actress followed her host up and down ladder-like stairways, admiring the machinery, applauding the flashing lights, nodding in response to his running commentary in a language she did not understand. She spoke some lines from Phedre into a marvellous phonograph. She must have it! He would have one specially made. She took his arm; in this short time they were the best of friends. He bore, she decided, a striking resemblance to Napoleon. Gazing over a balustrade into an abyss of revolving wheels and belts, she paid him her ultimate dramatic compliment - she fainted away in his arms
Review: Of Mice and Men
By opportunistic local hoping to exhibit the work
Fans will be hoping the role finally wins him an Oscar
What do gigantic horse heads tell us about Falkirk?
Finnish Postal Service praises the 'self irony and humour' of the drawings
The actor has confessed to his own insecurities
Allotments are the focus of a new reality show
Arts & Ents blogs
The food poverty scandal that shames Britain: Nearly 1m people rely on handouts to eat – and benefit reforms may be to blame
US Navy christens huge $3 billion destroyer ship USS Zumwalt that appears as a fishing boat on enemy radar
Scottish independence: It is the English who should be on their knees, begging the Scots to vote ‘No’
Nigel Farage fatigue? Half of voters ‘immune’ to Ukip’s appeal
Nigel Farage on Have I Got News For You: Ukip leader ridiculed over expenses and party 'fruitcakes'
Nigel Farage: I’m taking on the status quo, and the Establishment’s fighting back
- 1 Poveglia: 'World's most haunted island' up for sale...is anyone brave enough to buy it?
- 2 Babies cry at night to stop mothers procreating, scientists claim
- 3 24 people applied for the 'world's toughest job', here are their interviews
- 4 Andre Johnson: Wu-Tang Clan-discovered rapper severed his penis and jumped from LA building
- 5 Mrs Doubtfire 2: Robin Williams set to star in sequel to 1993 comedy