'LELIA FARRELL'S SUIT.
'Nat Goodwin to Be Asked to Divide His Money to Settle Damages.
'NEW YORK, September 24. - [Special] - A lawsuit is actually going to be begun against Nat Goodwin, the comedian, unless he prevents it by paying $10,000 to Lelia Farrell. The complaint has been written out by her lawyers, and a summons is ready to be served upon Goodwin as soon as he comes to this state, which he must do soon if he keeps his theatrical engagements. The case will be interesting legally, as well as socially and theatrically, because the question will be raised in court whether a promise by a man with a wife to marry a girl as soon as that wife dies can be successfully made the ground for obtaining damages. At the time when, as Lelia says, Goodwin pledged himself to wed her he had a living wife in the person of Eliza Weathersby, the very handsome burlesque actress. Eliza was his discoverer and developer artistically. She was older than him by at least ten years, and had come to America originally with the Lydia Thompson company. Athough her acting was in the frisky line of burlesque, she was a very intelligent, amiable and steady woman, who saved considerable money out of her large salary. When she came across Goodwin he had been only a short time away from the variety showers, and it was she who encouraged and instructed him in his progress as a legitimate comedian. She was ill for three years with a tumor, and before the surgical operation, which was a forlorn hope, she made a will, leaving about $13,000 to her husband. Death ensued at once. Lelia Farrell was a burlesquer, too, and far giddier than Mrs. Weathersby-Goodwin had ever been. New York ladies who go to theaters recall her as the first actress to wear black underskirts with short dresses, a fashion which has since been taken up by very many stage dancers. Lovemaking between Goodwin and Lelia began when the [first American production of the Gaiety, London,] burlesque Little Jack Shepard [sic] was produced in this city [at the Bijou Theatre, on 13 September 1886], a year ago last winter. Both played parts in that piece, and Lelia won considerable attention by an interpolated dance rather than by any histrionic ability. The recollection of others in the company is that there was rivalry among several of the girls for the star comedian's favor, and that for a while it was a neck and neck race by them, but very soon Lelia was oftener taken out to midnight suppers then any of her competitors, and at length she beat them out of sight. At the close of the season she and Goodwin paired off for a trip to Europe while Mrs. Goodwin remained an invalid here, grieving bitterly over her husband's conduct, and yet telling her intimate friends that she would forgive him in case he returned. The next development was that Lelia became ill, mysteriously, and was sent to southern California. She said that she was consumptive, and that a mile equable climate was essential to her recovery. She did not look emaciated before going, and if her malady was at that time dangerous it found a cure in the glorious climate of California, for she returned plump and hearty. Since coming back she has lived at 209 West Thirty fourth street, in apartments provided and furnished by Goodwin. When he went away on his present dramatic tour, she desired to go alone and he wouldn't take her. His friends understood that he had decided to part company with her, and had placed his affections elsewhere. The is why she wants $10,000 of his money, and will invoke the law to get it.
'''Lelia won't get a cent,'' says a lawyer authorized to speak for the defense. ''She says that she has a bundle of letters from Goodwin in which he many times promises to marry her. If she will read them over carefully again she will find that he does nothing of the sort. What she will find will be such sentences as 'I shall never marry anybody else,' or 'The man who wouldn't marry a girl like you isn't made of flesh and blood,' or 'I can't imagine greater happiness than with your in matrimony.' I don't know how many similar phrases are scattered through Nat's correspondence, which he admits was of any airy and romantic character, but he never once offered to marry her, notwithstanding all his rhapsodies about the bliss possible to such a union. In other words, he was too old a bird to be caught with chaff, and so was she. She didn't believe for an instant that he was a serious wooer, and it is going to bother her to make it appear so to a jury.'''
(The Galveston Daily News, Galveston, Texas, Tuesday, 25 September 1888, p. 12b)
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Adele Purvis Onri at
Proctor's Theatre, New York, 1891