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How to Hear Bernhardt

In response to:

The Drama of Sarah Bernhardt from the May 10, 2007 issue

To the Editors:

In his captivating account of Sarah Bernhardt [NYR, May 10], Robert Gottlieb cites Victor Hugo’s tribute to her golden voice but neglects to mention that it can still be heard—via the Internet. In 1902 and 1903, when she was in her late fifties, she performed brief excerpts from plays by Hugo, Racine, and Rostand for a series of seven Edison recordings now owned by the Vincent Voice Library of Michigan State University and accessible at http://vvl.lib.msu.edu/showfindingaid.cfm?findaidid=Bernhardt.

She can also be heard (a little more clearly) on four 1910 Edison recordings owned by the Davidson Library of the University of California/Santa Barbara, accessible at http://cylinders.library.ucsb.edu/search.php?query=sarah+bernhardt&queryType=%40attr+1%3D1016.

In addition, she made eight silent films, including such sensational hits as Camille (1911) and Queen Elizabeth (1912). Of the latter she said, “I am immortal! I am a film!”

James Heffernan

Emeritus Professor of English

Dartmouth College

Hanover, New Hampshire

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