“It’s the first time I’ve seen myself act, and I can’t say I’m impressed.”
From personal training to Lilly Langtry: a huge leap, but that’s just the kind of flying adventure that books can take you on, isn’t it? Here’s the segue from one to the other: While chatting with a newfound dog-walking companion, Mary, we started talking about personal training and exercise. That led me to tell Mary about a book I’ve been reading called Because I Loved Him: The Life and Loves of Lillie Langtry. Potboiler stuff, but entertaining, because Lillie was such a fascinating woman.
Like most people, I knew that the “Jersey Lily” was considered stunningly beautiful, but had no idea that she created her own “brand,” was a savvy businesswoman, an accomplished actress, and a self-made multi-millionairess — or that she was a health-and-fitness addict. Here’s her recipe for success: “Anyone’s life truly lived consists of work, sunshine, exercise, soap, plenty of fresh air, and a happy contented spirit.” Well…she left out a few things, but we won’t go there. When I told Mary that the book I was reading said that Lillie used to run two miles every morning, she was intrigued by the whole idea. A Victorian woman running?
In addition to transforming herself into an incredibly popular actress (Oscar Wilde is said to have written Lady Windermere’s Fan for her), Lillie collaborated on a play called Cross-Ways that had a huge long run and even penned a very discreet tale of her adventures, released in the Hearst newspapers, that earned her $1,000.00 for each of 10 installments — an astronomical sum at the time. No other author except for the Nobel Prize-winning Rudyard Kipling had ever enjoyed that high a fee. When I shared some of these colorful tidbits with Mary as we walked our dogs in the park, she said, I’m going to have to get her autobiography! What fun: two book lovers on a sunny Saturday stroll.