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Henry Arthur Jones, Dramatist: Self-Revealed


[clock] 29-MINUTE READ ISSUE:  Autumn 1925

A man cast in the true mould of gentleman, an Englishman of the Lion’s breed, a loyal friend of the United States, is Henry Arthur Jones. To his credit, to the enrichment of English drama, stands a long line of plays and comedies, ranging in type from the phenomenally popular melodrama, “The Silver King,” through the tense drama of “Mrs. Dane’s Defense,” the beautiful and moving tragedy of “Michael and His Lost Angel,” and the idealistic “The Divine Gift,” to the high and sophisticated comedy, “The Liars.” At the age of seventy-four, Mr. Jones is more active, physically and mentally, than many of his juniors in years. Books and essays continue to flow from his pen at almost unabated speed. If social, educational, and economic questions since the Great War have, in great measure, monopolized his attention, to the exclusion of the drama, he has by no means lost his hold upon the playgoing public. “The Lie,” with Sybil Thorndike in the leading role, recently ran for months to packed houses in London, and I can testify to the enthusiastic appreciation of the audiences.

For years, Mr. Jones has led a sort of crusade against the so-called “theatre of ideas” of which Bernard Shaw is the leading living exponent. Shaw early came under the influence of Ibsen; yet he gradually worked out an individual technic. Although Jones has publicly done penance for it, he did try to “improve on Ibsen” in re-writing “A Doll’s House,” with a happy ending, entitled “Breaking a Butterfly.” Throughout his sixty-odd plays, one discovers virtually no trace of Ibsen’s influence. For the “harum-scarum” and the “Pentonville omnibus” schools of drama, as he terms them, Jones has no use. He insists, if I may permit myself a slang phrase, that they “don’t get you anywhere.” “The ‘Harum-scarum’ school,” he observes, “in a brilliant, formless way rattles up our conventional morality and leaves the conventional playgoer standing on his head, uncertain as to what is right and wrong, or whether there is anything that is right or wrong. The ‘Pentonville omnibus’ school gives us photographs of prosaic persons in their most prosaic surroundings, and solemnly reports their prosaic sayings and doings.” Moreover, Jones makes out a strong case against “plays with a purpose.” Merely by treating social and political problems, he contends, one cannot solve them. Either the dramatist has to cook up a case to suit himself, that is, to “load the dice” in favor of his own view of the case; or else, to remain strictly impartial, which produces static, not dramatic, pieces. Such plays, he points out, begin to “date” very rapidly; and soon are “as dead as mutton.”

Of the pioneers in the renascence of the British drama in our day, numbering Shaw, Pinero, Wilde, and Galsworthy among its most conspicuous representatives, Jones is the most characteristically English. He was born September 20,1851, amidst scenes and surroundings which, he once told me, had scarcely changed since Shakespeare was born three hundred years earlier in the same rank and condition and in an adjoining county. This little story he told me: “When my little granddaughter asked me the other day, ‘Grandy, if you were born in the next county to Shakespeare, why don’t you write better plays?’ I answered her curtly and changed the subject.”

While Jones has a surprising number of flat failures on his record, a considerable number of his plays have achieved long runs and honorable success on the English-speaking stage. In an era of the “doctrinaire drama,” which runs counter to Jones’ fundamental artistic ideas, he has achieved no success on the Continent or in the Scandinavian countries. If his ideal for the drama is “old-fashioned,” it is essentially sound. Asked if the drama should not teach, he replied: “Yes, the drama should teach, indeed it cannot avoid teaching—either good or evil. But the drama should teach, not openly and directly by preachments and proclamations and propaganda, but as Nature teaches—silently, indirectly, implicitly: by action, not by words; with potent but unseen influence and occult far-removed results. The drama should slyly, obliquely insinuate lessons in the science which most of all we are concerned to learn—the science of wise living.”

A Conversation on the Art of Writing Plays: Henry Arthur Jones and Archibald Henderson

The dining room at 19 Kidderpore Avenue, London. Time: the period of the recent successful runs of “The Lie” at the New and “The Goal” at the Haymarket. A speaking likeness of the popular English dramatist, full-length, seated, looks straight in the eye the American critic, standing at the cozy fire-place. Bidden to the dramatist’s study, the visitor notes with pleased recognition the cartoons of Maw Beerbohm and Oliver Herford upon the landing — Bernard Shaw as Mephistopheles with forked tail dancing de-mentedly above the flames, and Shaw and Jones, as knights in armor, tilting violently at each other over the vexed relations of England and America. The visitor from over-seas is hospitably greeted, with an air of old-world courtesy, by Henry Arthur Jones, slight and dapper of figure, with ruddy complexion, pointed, slightly curling beard, eyes alight with animation, the aquiline nose of the humorist sharpened with the contour of the satirist.

Jones

Ever since you dined with me at the Athenaeum the other evening, I have been reflecting, not without a certain dismay and disquietude, over your interesting project of discovering the secrets of dramatic technic. You have conceived an original and fascinating theme for investigation. Whereas in recent years, several dramatists have spoken and written about their art, and have given hints and glimpses of how they write their plays, I do not know of any detailed confession or explanation of a dramatist as to how he wrote a play.

Henderson

Two themes have for many years obsessed me—themes which, extraordinarily enough, have somehow eluded the attention of the dramatic critic. Tragedy has monopolized the field; and there is no dearth of books on the art and philosophy of the tragic drama. But, aside from a few brilliant tentatives—Meredith’s essay, Lanson’s chapter, special studies of separate periods or movements—there is no book on the history and philosophy of Comedy. I mean to write that book. Furthermore, whereas there are plenty of books on playmaking and dramatic technic, most of them entirely worthless, there is no work in existence containing the “conscientious confessions” of any considerable group of dramatists. I leave out of account the shallow rhymed essay of Lope de Vega, “The New Art of Writing Plays,” and the somewhat light and frivolous letters from a dozen French dramatists in Abraham Dreyfus’s “Comment se fait une pièce de théâtre.” I have come here this morning to evoke from you another “philosophy of composition”—but minus the “tongue in cheek,” about which the critics are still in fine doubt concerning Poe’s “confession.”

Jones

A dramatist is a story-teller. Only the other day George Moore in an American interview, remarked that if I had given myself entirely to fiction, I should have written better novels than Thomas Hardy. But I must enter a firm protest against this generous estimate. However . . . I must insist that a dramatist’s first duty is to tell a story. In those cartons you see there upon my shelves are some scores of plots, which only await my leisure to be turned into plays. So, while I think it is possible to impart the main rules of writing plays, I do not think it possible to teach or train anyone to become a dramatist. The technic of playwriting can only be learned by constant study, observation and practice in the theatre itself. Books and verbal instruction are of comparatively little help or value.

Henderson

The vocabulary of dramatic technic always amuses me, suggesting that a play is now a ragout, now an architectural structure, now a narrative, now an essay in logic. People speak of concocting a play, constructing a play, writing a play, embodying a philosophy in dramatic form. Was it not the imaginative Herbert Spencer who with perhaps unconscious humor described a tragedy as a deduction killed by a fact? Plays have even been described as a sort of dramatic algebra: when all the factors are canceled out on each side of the equation, the drama is completed. (Smiling). One is almost tempted to inquire: Is the writing of stage plays an art, a trade, or a science?

Jones

(solemnly) The drama in itself has no connection with trade. But the author should always bear in mind that theatrical management is a business which must put up its shutters, if it continues to lose money. Goethe has said: “Shakespeare and Moliere wanted above all things to make money by their plays.” The drama, again, is not analogous to science, though a sense of scientific exactitude and some knowledge of science, are often valuable aids to a dramatist.

The drama is very closely allied to the art of fiction, as I have shown in my essay on Brunetiere’s “Law of the Drama,” where I dispute his contention that they are opposing arts. (Reflectively). The drama, as Professor Brander Matthews has pointed out, has a great affinity to oratory in that it makes an instant popular appeal to an audience no larger than can be reached by the voice. (After a pause). The drama has a close analogy to the art of sculpture, in that its highest forms are ruled by large, lofty conventions, and are far removed from the small actualities of real life.

Henderson

(throwing up his hands in mock despair) Heavens! Trade, science, fiction, oratory, sculpture-how is the poor would-be dramatist to know “where to get off”? As an artist-scientist, I am convinced that there is one scientific procedure in play writing: the writing of the scenario. No more gifted technical master of playwriting ever lived, I daresay, than Ibsen. On one occasion, besought by a budding dramatist to read the manuscript of his new play, Ibsen curtly demanded the scenario. When the young man proudly replied that he needed no scenario, having followed his inspiration from scene to scene whithersoever it led him, Ibsen flew into a passion and showed the pseudo-dramatist the door, declaring that anyone who dispensed with a scenario didn’t know what a drama was and couldn’t possibly write one. Ibsen approached playmaking from a scientific point of view: and evidently regarded the scenario as bearing a vital relation to the drama in much the same way the architect regards the plans and specifications as related to the finished building or structure. I seriously doubt, however, if dramatists like Shaw, Pirandello and Masterlinck, draw up scenarios at all. I am a trifle curious as to your practice?

Jones

(ruminatively) When the nucleus of the play has formed itself, and the characters have taken on flesh and blood, I begin to make notes of whatever may serve as a reminder or direction to me in writing the play. I jot down the various incidents in various sequences till I get the right and final one. I mark the keynotes of character, the necessity of emphasizing this point or that. I write out scraps of dialogue on which the action depends, or which denote the relations of one character to another—anything that may serve to illuminate the story and make it easy for the spectator to follow on the stage. I throw into the heap of memoranda all the shifting and variable raw materials of the play as it comes into my head.

I do not, as a matter of fact, make out a, straight, clear scenario, for the reason that the main schemi; of the play as it evolves, is always vividly in my mind, ano! I do not need to put it on paper. At the end, my scenario consists of hundreds of disconnected notes, signposts, and suggestions, the greater part of them jotted down after I have divided the play into acts, but with no order or plan that would be intelligible to a reader who had not first seen or read the play. I take care always to be thoroughly acquainted with all my chief characters, and to study the milieu they have lived in, so that if I am challenged I could creditably sketch their entire history.

Henderson

I recall that Ibsen always read the newspapers from cover to cover, including the advertisements—ever on the alert for the germ of a human and dramatic story, which we rather crudely call a “plot.” Incidents in other people’s lives, as well as in his own, furnished him with dramatic themes. Perhaps you take your “plots” from real life?

Jones

(expansively) Any incident in real life, any paragraph in a paper, any scene of history or even some small scrap of talk, may be the starting-point of a plot. I have a large drawer full of incomplete plots, jottings, suggestions, characters and themes waiting for stories to be fitted to them. I have never been without a good supply of plots. God sends them without my asking.

Henderson

Playmaking is the result of conscious and unconscious activities—both of the reason and of the imagination. Reason takes care of the scientific aspect of play-making, imagination of the artistic aspect. I daresay a single, specific incident, vivid in color, dramatic in appeal, often produces an instinctive mental reaction which leads to the creation of a play?

Jones

Sometimes a single striking incident or situation may start the train of a play and gather to it an auxiliary series of incidents and situations. Sometimes a succession of incidents—extraordinarily enough—may dart simultaneously into the brain. The whole of the third act of “The Liars,” with its numerous developments, came to me not as a sequence of situations, but at one glance, as one sees a landscape, foreground and middle distance and background all at once. This part of playmaking, I cannot repeat too often, is as automatic as dreaming. But after the original conception has taken root, there is much conscious effort and shaping in compelling the scheme to go on all fours.

Henderson

I cannot resist the temptation to ask if you draw your dramatic characters from real life.

Jones

A character in real life may give hints and suggestions to a dramatist. But I have never photographed an individual and put him into a play. The mass of human life in all its infinite variety lies round about a dramatist, like a rich quarry of disordered strata—precious stones and metals and rocks, all inextricably mixed and distorted: it is for him to choose from the amorphous heap just that which he needs for his purpose of fashioning his group of figures, all of them related to each other, every character related to every other character—and none of them becoming a definite human being, except he is hewn out of and taken away from human life, and re-fashioned and revitalized by the author in a world of his own, which is but a microcosm of real life.

Henderson

Ibsen once said: “To dramatize is to see.” Indeed, he never wrote about his characters until, as he put it, he had them wholly in his power and knew them down to “the last folds of their souls.” According to Fru Ibsen, he was something of a clairvoyant; and she once told me that her husband again and again had a vision of Nora Helmer, with a white collar, her hand resting upon his shoulder, as he was writing “A Doll’s House.” Do you, perhaps, ever visualize your characters?

Jones

In most cases, not very clearly. The outside of Hamlet may be different in a dozen different impersonations, and not one of them can claim to be the Hamlet that Shakespeare “visualized.” But every one of them may claim to be the Hamlet that Shakespeare conceived.

When i set out to draw a character, I have some general idea of his appearance, dress, cast of features and so forth. But it is clear that many characters can be played with equal truth and effect in various guises and make-ups, and sometimes with widely differing personalties. I try very hard to conceive and realize every character, before I bring him on the scene; to know exactly his spiritual make-up, his mental habits and way of expressing himself, so that if I am compelled, I could give reasons for his acting and speaking as he does at any moment of the play. I take great pains with my dialogue, and, so far as the necessary convention of the theatre will allow, I try to make it the exact utterance of the character in that situation. When I write a scene, I hear every word of it spoken. Here again, the best work is automatic, and the best and truest dialogue is not that which is taken from raw life, but that which registers itself upon the inner ear as the veritable utterance of that particular character in that particular situation.

Henderson

Authentic history of some of the world’s great dramatists not infrequently reveals that a dramatic character is a composite of several individuals. For instance, Ibsen’s “Brand,” his “Dr. Stockman,” Goethe’s “Faust,” Shaw’s “Dubedat,” Shakespeare’s “Hamlet”—to mention but a few; and often such a character is largely an autobiographic portrait. Perhaps you, too, create characters who are composite of several individuals?

Jones

Every character is a multiple character. We differ from each other, not so’ much in possessing opposite qualities, as in possessing varying blends and proportions of the same human qualities. In the limits of a play the dramatist can exhaustively portray only a few leading personages. The great majority of his personages can only expose those minor aspects of their characters which are relative and necessary to the development of the play. All the remaining aspects of their characters are purposely left in obscurity. Doubtless, a dramatist often composes a character from subconscious memories of several individuals. That is the true “creation” of character.

If I were asked to describe the process whereby I have summoned my personages on to the stage, I should say: “I have imagined them from memory.” I have kept a close watch on all the men and women I have met. I have listened to every conversation that has fallen within my earshot. I have thrown all my observations and experiences into a common melting pot, and have drawn from it fresh specimens and types of humanity that are new and consistent individuals compounded out of the massed material.

Henderson

Do you ever follow the line of classic tradition and build your play around a single individual, making that character the focus or central point of the play?

Jones

(nodding assent) Nearly all the great plays of the world are built round a single leading character—Macbeth, Hamlet, Lear, Oedipus —. Historic and poetic plays are generally built around a single character. I have often started with a single leading character, letting the other characters and the story grow round him—as in “The Middleman,” “Mrs. Dane,” “The Hypocrites.”

When the first idea of “The Liars” came to me, Falkner, and not Sir Christopher, was the chief part; and I could have built the story round Falkner. But in that case the play would have developed into a drama rather than a comedy. But as the piece grew in my mind, it irresistibly shaped itself into a comedy. The fact that the great majority of plays of all kinds are mainly the story of one or two leading characters, is an explanation, and a justification, of the star system. When we go to see “Hamlet”, we go, not so much to see the play, as to see some notable star in the leading part.

Henderson

In witnessing a play, I often have the feeling that the dramatist has thrown a lot of characters upon the stage, locked in a given situation; and that the drama arises from the reactions of these particular individuals to the given situation. Another group of individuals might well resolve the problem in a different way. May I put the matter this way: Do you ever begin a play with a group of clearly defined characters, and let the drama develop from the mutual conflicts of the characters?

Jones

Character and action in a play should jump together and be inseparable. I should find it impossible to start a play with a group of well defined characters unless I had imagined their actions at the same time, and also their reactions upon each other.

It is, however, a common thing to start a play with one leading character and build a scheme of action around him, drawing in other important characters as the scheme takes shape. But, on the stage, character is in a vacuum until it is revealed by action. Until you have some sort of a story, however meagre, you have no play. Again, it is possible to imagine a milieu containing certain types of character; but until you realize them and set them doing things, you have no play.

Henderson

An American critic once compared the methods of De Maupassant with those of O. Henry in the Short-Story, to the disadvantage of the latter—on the ground that once De Maupassant had drawn a character, you could infallibly tell what that character would do, in any given set of circumstances; whereas the characters of O. Henry were quite irresponsible: you could never calculate in advance what they might do. The argument really is a brief for the American artist—who continually furnishes richness, the inexplicable, and that “continual slight novelty” which is the essential quality of romance.

To turn for the moment from character to plot, most plays, on analysis, appear to be written for the sake of a given situation. The dramatist seems to have imagined the crisis first; shown the characters “up against” a given combination of circumstances; and then written the play up to this situation—with a final resolution of the problem. Perhaps the dramatist begins a play at the end or in the middle or at least with the penultimate act—even writing the last act before he writes the first?

Jones

i never begin to write a play until the whole scheme of it has taken a definite shape in my mind, and until I can get a rough view of all its leading scenes and characters. But I make a great number of notes as the play grows, and sometimes I jot down a few sentences of any scene that vividly impresses itself on me.

Sometimes i have to take my plan to pieces after I have constructed it, and always there are minor alterations to be made. But I always begin to write with the first act clearly mapped out, and the remaining acts roughly mapped out in their sequence. I dwell upon the play for a considerable time before I start to write it, trying to know my characters intimately, so that the story may grow by its own impulse, rather than by my forcing.

Henderson

Some time ago, I was much fascinated by the confession of a distinguished Continental dramatist who told me he had materially altered his technic in mid-channel. I remember that, according to your own story, you had much difficulty in breaking away from melodrama; and deliberately cut the Gordian knot with “Saints and Sinners.”

Jones

The technic of writing plays has changed so much during the nearly fifty years that I have been writing for the English theatre; and I daresay I have changed with it. To get a footing on the English stage, I had for many years to write melodrama. The technic of melodrama is different to some extent from the technic of comedy. But though the technic of playwriting changes, the main principles of dramatic construction remain the same. Perhaps it would be more correct to say, that the conventions, rather than the technic of playwriting, change from time to time.

I have not deliberately changed my technic; but as I studied and practiced playwriting, my technic became firmer and more assured. After the great popular success of “The Silver King” (in which I owed much to Henry Herman and Wilson Barrett), it took me eleven years incessant study in the English theatre, watching and dissecting almost every new play, before I could take a play to a manager, printed and ready for rehearsal, so that he could put it on the stage without the alteration of a single line. “The Masqueraders,” “The Case of Rebellious Susan,” “The Liars,” “The Hypocrites,” and my other plays since 1894 have been rehearsed from printed books; and in most of them, not a line has been changed since they left my study.

Henderson

Brunetiere once made the astonishing remark that the “novel is the contrary of the drama.” And again he says: “The drama and the novei are not the same thing; or rather each is the reverse of the other.” I fully agree with your contention that this is quite false. A Short-Story is the nearest fictive analogue to the one-act play; and the most gripping and arresting Short-Stories are essentially dramatic. The analogy holds even in the bastard case of the Short-Story which is only an expanded anecdote; for after all, an anecdote is a tiny drama. I quite agree with you that “the novel approaches the play, and tends to contain a play or a number of plays according to the force and number of its dramatic scenes, and according as these scenes can be made to fall into an organic connected sequence, or into more than one organic connected sequence.” For instance, Michael Arlen’s “The Green Hat” is full of dramatic crises; and it is really written for the sake of the final revelation of Iris Storm’s character in the tense dramatic conflict of the last chapter.

And yet the drama differs from the novel in being rigidly confined within certain limiting restrictions and conventions. Clearly, as distinguished from the art of fiction, there are certain principal factors which must always be borne in mind in the writing of a play.

Jones

You are quite right, of course. There are two such principal factors.

First, a drama is to be presented to an audience, a crowd of listeners, the most of whom have only a limited energy of attention to bestow upon the piece, and whose interest needs to be unflaggingly sustained from moment to moment. Therefore the play must be compact within the time that the audience of the day are able or willing to concentrate their attention.

Second, being addressed to general average audiences, the drama should try to meet them on the common ground of the permanent passions, emotions, follies, vices and humours of humanity. It should not be written for a clique, or for a coterie of superior persons. Repertory theatres have failed in England because their promoters have mainly produced freakish and eccentric pieces, and have tried to elevate the drama by offering plays that keep the general public out of the theatre.

Henderson

To speak of Ibsen again, he once confessed that he always used the individual as his starting-point. He probably never worked his ideas into a play solely for their own sake. With you, I believe, the story, the situation, is the springboard; and I daresay you never use, for the germ of your play, one central or controlling idea.

Jones

With myself, a play often springs suddenly from a certain character in a certain situation. I do not start from “ideas” or “opinions.” I take the keenest interest in social matters and I think I may lay claim to have studied them. But the dramatist’s main business, and his great delight, is to paint men and women faithfully as he sees them —not to air his “ideas” and “opinions.” And as men are judged, not by their “ideas” and “opinions,” but by their actions, the dramatist must frame his characters in a story. So far as he uses the stage to exploit his “ideas” and “opinions,” he is not a dramatist, but a propagandist. This is not to say that the dramatist may not deal with the great issues of life, and even with the passing problems of the day, if he can exhibit them in an interesting story. But the true vocation of the dramatist is to hide himself behind his characters, and to let them have the whole stage. But in trying to conceal himself behind his personages, he often reveals himself most conspicuously. In any case, he can scarcely avoid throwing sidelights and reflections of his “ideas” and “opinions,” and incidentally offering some criticism of life.

Henderson

(smilingly) My dear Mr. Jones, you have been exceedingly patient with me; and have most conscientiously tried to answer illuminatingly my many interrogations. Many thanks! And now I shall ask but two more questions: one very general, and one very special. First, please try to tell me what mental process takes place when you write a play?

Jones

It is very difficult to give a succinct answer to this question. With me, the primary mental process is spontaneous and automatic, like dreaming awake. And this process often goes on while I am busy with other things —in a separate compartment of consciousness. Of course I keep a measure of control and selection over the waking dream, and as it takes a more definite shape, this power of control and selection increases, and other mental processes are brought into play: the construction of a concrete piece of action gradually unfolding itself; attempts to realize each of the personages as a living man or woman whom I know, and who speaks and acts throughout the play with his own voice and purpose, and not with mine; the gathering together of all the threads of interest and action and weaving the various characters as weft into warp until they form a continuous correlated whole.

Henderson

That question was difficult to answer, but here is one that is harder still. Will you please take one of your own plays and indicate, in some detail, how you built up the drama?

Jones

From my answers to the other questions, you will gather that my plays have generally grown round a nucleus. A dramatist cannot build up a play until he has some rough scheme of action in his mind. I found the nucleus of “Mrs. Dane’s Defense” in a newspaper account of an action that was brought by a Mrs. Osborne for defamation of character. Mrs. Osborne had been staying with a friend, who afterwards spread a report that Mrs. Osborne had stolen her jewelry. The matter gained some publicity, and to defend her character, Mrs. Osborne was obliged at length to bring an action. Lord Chief Justice Russell-then, Sir Charles Russell, K. C.—defended her, and believed in her innocence. Everything seemed to be going well for his client, until a firm of jewelers intervened with some damaging evidence against her. Although the matter looked very suspicious, Mrs. Osborne triumphantly exclaimed in court: “Ah! now my innocence will be proved.” Upon this, Sir Charles Russell, much puzzled by her manner, went with her to her home, and subjected her to a searching cross-examination, which came to its climax in his indignant exclamation: “Woman, you are lying!”

I used this sentence as the climax of my cross-examination scene in “Mrs. Dane.” I laid by this scene in my mind for future use. The stealing of a piece of jewelry did not offer a plan for a strong emotional play. I therefore changed it for the stronger motive of a woman fighting desperately to uphold her reputation and retain her lover. This was a very gradual and complicated process, and it was many months before I had evolved the complete scheme as I finally wrote it. I can’t give any precise details of how I evolved the scheme in my own mind. It took many different shapes before it assumed the final one, but from the beginning I always had in view the cross-examination scene, with its prolonged agony of the tortured woman, as the great scene of the play. This is of course only a particular instance—other plays have grown in other ways. For instance:

Early in the eighties, I saw a paragraph in the paper commenting severely on the practices of “The Middleman.” I thought that would be a good title for a play. A year or two afterwards, I saw Willard play an inventor in a play of the late Tom Taylor. I thought that character would be a very effective one in a good scheme, and I linked it with the title “The Middleman.” But although I had the theme and the leading character in my mind, I had no play. I fitted the story of “The Middleman” to the character of the inventor and to the title. The theme and the title lay dormant until, by intermittently dwelling upon them, and turning them over, the main story came to my mind, and I worked at it, and filled in the various characters to fit the action.

In this connection, the points that are worth dwelling upon are these: That whatever may be the force and insight of your character drawing; whatever may be the loftiness of your ideas and opinions, until you have smelted them into a story, you have no play that will hold a general audience. I would particularly impress these points upon a young dramatist. But a temporary reputation and a momentary success are nearly always to be gained by discovering some new way of boring people in the theatre.

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