The Impact of Ibsenism
"WHEN PINERO, JONES, WILDE, AND CARTON CAME," SAYS BERNARD SHAW IN a sketchy account of the renascence in English drama in the nineteenth century, "he [ Robertson] vanished like a star at daybreak. When Ibsen came from Norway with his characters who thought and discussed as well as acted, the theatrical heavens rolled up like a scroll."1
The real pioneer in introducing Ibsen to the English-reading public was a young journalist and talented critic of twenty-two, Edmund Gosse, later famous as literary critic and biographer. Already the author of verses of delicacy and skill, this representative of the Spectator and Fraser's Magazine was instantly fascinated by Ibsen's little volume of poems ( Digte, 1871); and published an unsigned review of one and a half columns, entitled "Ibsen's New Poems."2 Gosse, who happened to be a minor official of the British Museum, entered vigorously upon a campaign of publicization of Ibsen in England; and in the summer of 1872 published reviews of Peer Gynt and The Pretenders.3
Ibsen was much pleased to read the review of his Digte, which Gosse had sent him; and during the years 1872-1874, wrote him six letters, in the first of which he says: "I could not wish a better or more laudable introduction to a foreign nation than you have given me in your excellent review, nor is there any nation to whose reading public I should feel it a greater honor to be made known than yours. If it can be done through your friendly and capable intervention, I shall be everlastingly indebted to you."4 In 1873 Gosse published an extended article, "Ibsen, the Norwegian Satirist," in which he says concerning Love's Comedy, Brand, and Peer Gynt: that they "form a great satiric trilogy, perhaps for sustained vigor of expression, for affluence of execution, and for brilliance of dialogue, the greatest of modern times."5 Aside from nine____________________
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Publication information: Book title: George Bernard Shaw: Man of the Century. Contributors: Archibald Henderson - Author. Publisher: Appleton-Century-Crofts. Place of publication: New York. Publication year: 1956. Page number: 393.
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